Reconciling software architecture and source code in support of software evolution
Even in the eighties, the need of managing software evolution has been detected as one of the most complex aspects of the software lifecycle. In this context, software architecture has been highlighted as an integral element of the software evolution process. However, no matter how much effort is put into the architecture, it must eventually be translated into source code. The potential misalignment between architecture and code can lead to failures in the evolution process in terms of economic impacts, failed expectations, and so on. In this article we report on a design science research study that we pursued to answer three research questions. First, we have studied whether and in how far it is possible to design an approach that both enforces the integration between software architecture and source code to avoid architectural erosion and architectural drift and, at the same time, provides automatic guidance to developers to carry out the required change tasks in each evolution steps. Second, we have studied whether this approach may be applied in realistic (open source) cases. Finally, we have analysed whether it is realizable at acceptable costs (in terms of development effort) in comparison to the overall development efforts roughly spent on the evolution of the projects in focus.