Discovering Software Rot

Since I have seen some announcements about talks targeting the German Corona Warn App, I was interested to see, what kind of information I could extract with Sonargraph.

The project is still pretty young, but maybe, there is already some structural erosion happening? (Spoiler: There is!)

This blog post is about the setup of the analysis-pipeline consisting of Sonargraph-Build and Sonargraph-Enterprise that allowed me to analyse 24 versions (1.4.0 to 2.9.0) of the CWA-Server project and investigate metric trends.

The execution is implemented in Java and published as a new repo “Sonargraph-Build Batch“. If anybody is interested in analyzing past versions of a project with Sonargraph, “Sonargraph-Build Batch” can serve as a starting point.

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Identify the Most Relevant Issues to Fix

Using Sonargraph to analyse a large code base usually reveals a lot of issues. The “System Diff” helps to keep the quality level by highlighting new and worsened issues as described in a previous blog post. But up to now there has been no recommendation about which of the already existing issues should be fixed first.
The new “Ranking” view available in Sonargraph 11.5 does exactly that and this blog post describes how it works.

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Motivation for Code Quality

The main idea behind Sonargraph has always been to provide a tool that eases the creation and maintenance of high-quality software. For any serious project that must live longer than a couple of months, it is actually cheaper to spend a part of your resources to keep your software constantly at a good level of quality than using all your time to create new features. Martin Fowler explains this very well in his article “Is High Quality Worth the Cost?”. The bottom line is, that apart from the very early development stages, high-quality software is actually cheaper to develop, because it allows adding new features at almost constant speed, whereas it becomes more and more time consuming to add new features into a code base with low quality. According to our experience the most successful teams spend about 15% to 20% of their time on code hygiene.

We at hello2morrow believe that a consistent architecture is a fundamental part of software quality. When we use the term “architecture”, we think of it in terms of the IEEE 1471 standard:

“The fundamental organization of a system embodied in its components, their relationships to each other, and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution.”

This blog post describes why architectural design as an activity is needed, why conformance checks need to be done automatically by a tool and how Sonargraph supports you as a developer and architect during these activities.

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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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