Software architecture visualisation
Tracing the history of software engineering reveals a series of abstractions. In early days, software engineers would construct software using machine code. As time progressed, software engineers and computer scientists developed higher levels of abstraction in order to provide tools to assist in building larger software systems. This has resulted in high-level languages, modelling languages, design patterns, and software architecture. Software architecture has been recognised as an important tool for designing and building software. Some research takes the view that the success or failure of a software development project depends heavily on the quality of the software architecture. For any software system, there are a number of individuals who have some interest in the architecture. These stakeholders have differing requirements of the software architecture depending on the role that they take. Stakeholders include the architects, designers, developers and also the sales, services and support teams and even the customer for the software. Communication and understanding of the architecture is essential in ensuring that each stakeholder can play their role during the design, development and deployment of that software system. Software visualisation has traditionally been focused on aiding the understanding of software systems by those who perform development and maintenance tasks on that software. In supporting developers and maintainers, software visualisation has been largely concerned with representing static and dynamic aspects of software at the code level. Typically, a software visualisation will represent control flow, classes, objects, import relations and other such low level abstractions of the software. This research identifies the fundamental issues concerning software architecture visualisation. It does this by identifying the practical use of software architecture in the real world, and considers the application of software visualisation techniques to the visualisation of software architecture. The aim of this research is to explore the ways in which software architecture visualisation can assist in the tasks undertaken by the differing stakeholders in a software system and its architecture. A prototype tool, named ArchVis, has been developed to enable the exploration of some of the fundamental issues in software architecture visualisation. ArchVis is a new approach to software architecture visualisation that is capable of utilising multiple sources and representations of architecture in order to generate multiple views of software architecture. The mechanism by which views are generated means that they can be more relevant to a wider collection of stakeholders in that architecture. During evaluation ArchVis demonstrates the capability of utilising a number of data sources in order to produce architecture visualisations. Arch Vis' view model is capable of generating the necessary views for architecture stakeholders and those stakeholders can navigate through the views and data in order to obtain relevant information. The results of evaluating ArchVis using a framework and scenarios demonstrate that the majority of the objectives of this research have been achieved.