Using Sonargraph-Enterprise to Track Key Quality Metrics

Sonargraph-Enterprise is designed to allow stake-holders to track important software quality metrics over time. The idea is that this would enable the early detection of harmful trends so that issues can be fixed while they are still easy to fix. The metrics displayed by Sonargraph-Enterprise can be fully customized by the user. However, in this article I will explain the “default” profile that comes with a set of preselected metrics that cover important aspects of code health and quality.

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Efficiently Track the Quality of a Code Base

Sonargraph offers a wide range of checks for different aspects of software quality: Architecture, metric thresholds, cyclic dependencies, duplicate code, etc.
When Sonargraph gets introduced for software projects that have been developed a couple of years, chances are high that hundred’s of issues are reported. But getting flooded with issues and sifting through them at regular intervals is neither efficient nor really helpful. Instead, you want to get a quick overview whether or not the quality is going into the right direction.

And this is where quality gates come into the game: they allow focussing on the information important to you.

This blog post details how this functionality is implemented in Sonargraph.

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Analyzing Software with Advanced Visualizations

I thought I’d use our new 3D city view visualizations to have a closer look at Apache-Cassandra, a very popular and successful open source project that implements a NoSql database. I know from previous analysis runs of the same software that it already had problems with structural erosion. Years ago I analyzed Cassandra 1.2.6 and found pretty big cycle groups for Java files as well as for packages. Maintainability Level was only 9.4% (everything under 50% is concerning) while the metric “Propagation Cost” has a value of 62%. That means that every change will affect 62% of all code directly or indirectly which also is not a good thing because it significantly increases the chance of regression bugs.

477 Java files form a beautiful big ball of mud in Cassandra 1.2.6

Before you say “this image is useless, you cannot see anything there” let me tell you that I agree. The point is to make sure that your software never ends up in that situation. This big cyclic conglomeration is making it close to impossible to modularize Cassandra or to put any kind of architectural model on top of it.

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Using Sonargraph’s “System Diff” for Continuous Code Quality Improvements

Sonargraph often discovers a huge number of issues for large software projects. This is especially the case for projects that do not use static code analysis tools and that have many contributors. The analysis results can be overwhelming because it is not obvious where to start with quality improvements.

A common best practice to improve code quality is “to keep a lid on it” by preventing further issues to be introduced in new code and gradually improving existing code where it needs to be changed. This is described by Robert Martin as the boyscout rule: “Always leave the campground cleaner than you found it.” [KH]

This blog post explains how Sonargraph’s “System Diff” feature helps to focus on recently introduced issues that need the developer’s attention.

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A Promising New Metric To Track Maintainability

A good metric to measure software maintainability is the holy grail of software metrics. What we would like to achieve with such a metric is that its values more or less conform with the developers own judgement of the maintainability of their software system. If that would succeed we could track that metric in our nightly builds and use it like the canary in the coal mine. If values deteriorate it is time for a refactoring. We could also use it to compare the health of all the software systems within an organization. And it could help to make decisions about whether it is cheaper to rewrite a piece of software from scratch instead of trying to refactor it.

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Automatic Detection of Singletons

Today, we released a new version of Sonargraph with an improved script to find Singletons. “Singleton” is one of the design patterns described by the “Gang of Four” [1]. It represents an object that should only exist once.
There are a couple of pros and cons for a Singleton that I won’t go into detail in this blog post. For anyone interested, I recommend “Item 3: Enforce a singleton property with a private constructor or an enum type” in “Effective Java”, written by Joshua Bloch [2]. Two interesting links that came up during a quick internet research are listed as references [3] [4]. Let’s just summarize that it is important to ensure that Singletons are properly implemented to avoid bad surprises (a.k.a bugs) in your software. And you should keep an eye on the existing Singletons and check that they are not misused as global variables.

This blog post describes, how you can detect Singletons by utilizing the Groovy scripting functionality of Sonargraph.
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Finding Distributed Packages/Namespaces with the Sonargraph Scripting Engine

Today I will show how to make use of a very powerful, yet underutilized capability of Sonargraph-Architect. By writing simple Groovy scripts you are able to create your own code checkers or define your own metrics. Many of our most useful scripts are just about 50 lines of code and therefore not a big effort to create. As an example we will develop a script that finds packages (Java) or name spaces (C#, C++) that occur in more than one module.

The scripting engine of Sonargraph is based on our scripting API. Most scripts are based on the visitor pattern. Using this pattern a script can traverse specific elements of Sonargraph’s software system model, which is basically a very big tree data structure. At the root there is the software system node, which is accessible by a globally available instance of class CoreAccess, called “coreAccess”. This specific instance is language agnostic, i.e. it can be used for scripts that support all programming languages supported by Sonargraph. When creating a script you decide wether it will be language specific or language agnostic. Language specific scripts have access to more detailed language specific data and will use different root objects like “javaAccess” or “csharpAccess”.
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Managing the “not so visible” dependencies in your Java code

In modern object-oriented languages, inheritance is massively used with its pros and cons. Moreover, languages such as Java offer simple inheritance but also allow classes to implement an arbitrary number of interfaces. With inheritance and interface implementation comes one additional ingredient that is naturally expected: method overriding. When a software evolves, you end up with hierarchies involving multiple classes and interfaces with methods definitions and implementations and then, the classes that are part of this hierarchy will be used by some other classes. In this context, it is difficult if not impossible to have control by hand over the usages or overriding classes of methods we would be interested in. Hereafter, I will present this problem in more detail with a very concrete and yet complex enough example, as well as some tools that can empower software architects and developers to gain more control over their code. Read More

Use SonarQube + Sonargraph Plugin to Detect Cyclic Dependencies

Cyclic dependencies have long been seen as a major code smell. We like to point to John Lakos as a reference [Lako1996], and a Google search about this topic will bring up valuable resources if you are unfamiliar with the negative effects. In this blog post, I take it as a given that you are interested in detecting cycles and that you agree that they should be avoided. If you see things differently, that’s fine by me – but then this blog post won’t be really interesting for you.

A number of static analysis tools exist that can detect those cycles in your code base automatically. SonarQube was one of them, until the Dependency Structure Matrix (DSM) and cycle detection was dropped with version 5.2. The DZone article by Patroklos Papapetrou (“Working with Dependencies to Eliminate Unwanted Cycles”) and the SonarQube documentation (“Cycles – Dependency Structure Matrix”) illustrate the previous functionality.

I noted that some people are missing those features badly and complain about their removal. The comments of the issue “Drop the Design related services and metrics” and the tweet of Oliver Gierke are two examples.

But thanks to the SonarQube ecosystem of plugins, there is a solution: Use the free Sonargraph Explorer and the Sonargraph Integration Plugin to get the checks for cycles back in SonarQube!
I will demonstrate that the setup and integration of Sonargraph into the build is fast and easy.

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How to Organize your Code

In this article I am going to present a realistic example that will show you how to organize your code and how to describe this organization using our architecture DSL (domain specific language) implemented by our static analysis tool Sonargraph-Architect. Let us assume we are building a micro-service that manages customers, products and orders. A high level architecture diagram would look like this:

System Architecture

It is always a good idea to cut your system along functionality, and here we can easily see three subsystems. In Java you would map those subsystems to packages, in other languages you might organize your subsystem into separate folders on your file system and use namespaces if they are available.

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