Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Building Object Oriented Frameworks (2)

Building Object Oriented Frameworks

Object oriented frameworks are a mainstay of modern software development. Whether you develop in Java, C#, Objective-C, Python, Ruby or Javascript, chances are you're basing your development on some sort of application development framework. Yet, not many of us are familiar with building application frameworks to fulfill business needs in our organizations. This series of posts illustrates object oriented framework development around a simple (though not trivial) application domain. The code for these documents, written in the Xtend programming language, is available at Xtend is a modern JVM language whose syntax is highly readable to developers acquainted with the various mainstream object oriented languages.
  1. In our first post we outlined what a framework is, how it is implemented and how it can be used to build concrete applications.
  2. In this second post we zoom into the details of framework design around the xrecords example. We identify the portions of the application domain that do not change from application to application and capture them as framework frozen spots. In doing so, we also identify the portions that do change between applications and capture them as abstract interfaces to be concretized by application developers: the hot spots.

2. Frozen Spots, Hot Spots

For any given application domain, a framework separates what is fixed from what is variable.
The intent is to capture, once and for all, the application aspects that are fixed so that future applications do not have to repeat them over and over. Because such application aspects are captured into the framework kernel in an unchanging form, they're referred to as frozen spots.
Application aspects that can change from application to application, on the other hand, are referred to as hot spots.
Obviously, hot spot actual functionality cannot be captured by the framework beforehand, but its relationship with the frozen spots can: hot spots are seen by the framework as interfaces (or abstract classes) for which an open-ended number of pluggable implementations may exist.

An important consequence of this architecture is that framework customization occurs mostly by supplying concrete hot spot implementations, seldom -if ever- by altering the framework kernel's source code!

xrecord Frozen Spot

Our example record copying framework exhibits one obvious frozen spot: that of reading records from an input source, possibly filtering and transforming them, and then writing them to their output destination:

A first-draft implementation for the above may look like:
// The framework data
class Record extends HashMap<String, Object> {} // Simplified, for now

// A framework-defined contract: setting up and wrapping up
interface Lifecycle {
    def void open()
    def void close()

// Hot spot: interface for record producer
interface Source extends Iterator<Record>, Lifecycle {}

// Hot spot: interface for record consumer
interface Destination extends Lifecycle { def void put(Record record) }

// Hot spot: interface for record filtering
interface Filter {
    def boolean matches(Record record)
    val nullFilter = new Filter { override matches(Record record) { true } }

// Hot spot: interface for record transformation
interface Transformer {
    def Record transform(Record record)
    val nullTransformer = new Transformer { override transform(Record record) { record } } 

// Framework frozen spot (hence a concrete, possibly final, class)
class Copier {
    @Accessors Source source
    @Accessors Filter filter =  Filter.nullFilter
    @Accessors Transformer transformer = Transformer.nullTransformer
    @Accessors Destination destination

    def copy() {

        source.forEach [ inputRecord |
            if (filter.matches(inputRecord)) {
                val outputRecord = transformer.transform(inputRecord)


xrecord Hot Spots

As seen above, our framework leaves four components unimplemented for developers to supply. When concrete instances of these hot spots are supplied to our framework, it is instantiated into a running application:
  • Source: an iterator returning Records
  • Filter: an optional sieve to select only applicable records
  • Transformer: an optional modifier to refine selected records
  • Destination: a sink where to put resulting records
Note how our framework supplies ready-made, no-op implementations for Filter and Transformer (nullFilter and nullTransformerrespectively). This reflects the fact that such steps are optional as many applications just need to convert between formats without further elaboration.
Since Source extends Iterator we can use Xtend's powerful forEach lambda construct to traverse it:
source.forEach [ inputRecord |
    if (filter.matches(inputRecord)) {
        val outputRecord = transformer.transform(inputRecord)
Both Source and Destination extend the Lifecycle contract and thus must provide implementations for the open() and close() operations. This makes sense as record sources typically need to perform houskeeping actions such as:
  • opening and closing files
  • connecting and disconnecting from databases
  • connecting and disconnecting from remote FTP servers

Time for an Example

Let's see how we can turn our framework into an executable application by adding simple implementations for these hot spots.
Consider the case where need to process a mainframe-supplied, fixed-length record containing the following fields:
where price has 2 (implicit) decimal positions. This file would look like:
123Bolts x 10               0012000245
234Eau de Perrier           2000000075
345Acqua Pellegrino         0520000055
456Caturro Coffee           0032015024
and we want to produce a spreadsheet-friendly, CSV file for totals above $1,000. The resulting file would look like:
123,"Bolts x 10",2940
234,"Eau de Perrier",1500
456,"Caturro Coffee",4807.68
The following is a (somewhat verbose) approximation to the application code:
class MyXRecordsApplication {
  static def main(String[] args) {
    val copier = new Copier => [
        // Hot spot implementation: Source
        source = new Source {
            var String line
            var BufferedReader in

            override open() {
               in = new BufferedReader(new FileReader('mainframe-file.dat'))
            override hasNext() {
              line = in.readLine()
              line != null
            override Record next() {
              val record = new Record
              record.put('code', line.substring(0, 3))
              record.put('desc', line.substring(3, 27))
              record.put('qty', Integer.parseInt(line.substring(27, 31)))
              record.put('price', Double.parseDouble(line.substring(31, 37)) / 100)
            override close() {
            override remove() {}
       // Hot spot implementation: Filter
       filter = new Filter {
           override matches(Record record) {
             val qty = record.get('qty') as Integer
             val price = record.get('price') as Double
             qty * price > 1000
       // Hot spot implementation: Transformer
       transformer = new Transformer {
           override transform(Record record) {
             val qty = record.get('qty') as Integer
             val price = record.get('price') as Double
             record.put('total', qty * price)
       // Hot spot implementation: Destination
       destination = new Destination {
           var PrintWriter out

           override open() {
               out = new PrintWriter(new FileWriter('spreadsheet-file.csv'), true)
           override put(Record record) {
               val line = #['code', 'desc', 'total'].
           override close() {


Cool! A bit involved, though...

Yes, a bit... 
This is so because (so far) our framework only captures the essence of record copying. Our hot spot implementations are still burdened with ancillary responsibilities such as:
  • Formatting fields
  • Decoding input lines into records
  • Assembling output lines from records
We can do better.
In the next post we'll see how to augment the framework with new frozen spots dealing with these aspects. We'll also write ready-made, configurable hot spot implementations developers can reuse to minimize repetition and verbosity.
Stay tuned! 

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