Specification Matching of Software Components

Authors: A. M. Zaremski and J. M. Wing

Appears in Proceedings of 3rd ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering, October 1995.

The full text of this paper is here (in PostScript).


Specification matching is a way to compare two software components. In the context of software reuse and library retrieval, it can help determine whether one component can be substituted for another or how one can be modified to fit the requirements of the other. In the context of object-oriented programming, it can help determine when one type is a behavioral subtype of another. In the context of system interoperability, it can help determine whether the interfaces of two components mismatch.

We use formal specifications to describe the behavior of software components, and hence, to determine whether two components match. We give precise definitions of not just exact match, but more relevantly, various flavors of relaxed match. These definitions capture the notions of generalization, specialization, substitutability, subtyping, and interoperability of software components.

We write our formal specifications of components in terms of pre- and post-condition predicates. Thus, we rely on theorem proving to determine match and mismatch. We give examples from our implementation of specification matching using the Larch Prover.

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