JSEA  Vol.12 No.7 , July 2019
Investigation of Tools, Techniques and Languages for Model Driven Software Product Lines (SPL): A Systematic Literature Review
ABSTRACT
Software development is a complex and difficult task that requires the investment of sufficient resources and carries major risk of failure. Model Driven Engineering (MDE) focuses on creating software models and automating code generation from the models. Model Driven Software Development (MDSD) offers significantly more effective approaches. These approaches improve the way of building software. Model driven approaches partially increase developer productivity, decrease the cost of software construction, improve software reusability, and make software more maintainable. This paper investigates the methods where Model Driven Software Development is integrated with Software Product Line (SPL). This SLR has been conducted to identify 71 research works published since 2014. We have collected 18 tools, 14 techniques and 17 languages used for MDSD for SPL. We analyze which technique is suitable for SPL. We compare the techniques on the basis of features provided by these tools to understand the better-quality results.

1. Introduction

When design changes to a software product lines, developer faced with uncertainty about deciding among multiple possible SPL designs. As the requirement of the system changes according to environment, the SPL grows day by day. Software Product Lines (SPLs) are families of related software systems developed for specific market segments or domains [1] [2] . SPL is used for reusability of resources in family of products [3] [4] . In the competitive market, the most challenging task in SPL is designing the architecture. To manage the common and variable features of SPL, a tree structure known as Feature Model (FM), is commonly used in literature. Feature Model is also the tools and techniques used for creating a collection of similar software systems from a shared set of software assets [5] [6] . Each product of SPL differs from the others with variable features that provide functionalities according to end user requirements and specifications [7] . Developers use SPL to increase the reusability of features that reduce the development cost and time to market, which results in better product development. SPL is an approach used to develop a range of software products with a high degree of similarity. In this approach, a feature model is usually used to keep track of similarities and differences [8] . The latest generation of SPL methods and tools are demonstrating even greater improvements and extending more benefits. In current software, traceability, productivity and variability play a key role to maintain the consistency between requirement and code generation. Current SPL traceability mechanism trace from variability in feature of variations (feature model, variable model) in configuration of Product Line Architecture (PLA) in term of adding and removing components [9] [10] .

The Software Product Line Engineering (SPLE) and Model Driven Engineering (MDE) are two main aspects of software reuse (two software development paradigms) [25] . SPL is a useful and very successful approach to reuse many domains. Two frameworks of SPL are domain engineering and application engineering. In the production of new software system, the domain engineering (also called product line engineering) is used to reuse domain knowledge. It is used to improve and enhance the quality of developed software from the reuse software domain [10] . Application engineering is related with design, management and execution of the system. SPLE is concerned with producing the similar software products. Whereas, MDE focused on creating and modeling the software products. The paper presents an overview of several SPL dimension (i.e. SPLE, MDE) to collect the appropriate number of researches.

Model driven SPL is a combination of SPLE and MDE methodologies. In model-driven SPL, instead of creating and modeling the similar software product models individually, the product models are derived from the product line model. Researches have proposed “Model Driven” approaches to improve the state of the art and skills in software engineering. The purpose of this paper is to answer the following research questions in order to summarize MDSPL languages, tools and techniques.

Research Question 1: What are the significant languages used for Model Driven Software Product Lines?

Research Question 2: What are the significant tools used for Model Driven Software Product Lines?

Research Question 3: Which significant techniques are used for Model Driven Software Product Lines?

2. Research Methodology

In this section, we define comprehensive guidelines for selection of research articles. To make our SLR more comprehensive and result-oriented we have selected different research papers published from 2014 to 2019, from top leading databases. Keywords used for search are “model-driven SPL”, “model-based product lines”, “modeling for SPL”, and “model development for SPL”. Thus, collected studies helped us to establish more accurate and reliable results on the subject. All the research articles considered in this study were published in one of the following top research databases.

We have selected 71 research publications from different databases published from 2014 to 2019, as shown in Table 1. We have selected five scientific databases i.e. “IEEE”, “SPRINGER”, “ACM”, “ELSEVIER”, and “WILEY” for collection of significant researches and the detailed search process is given in Figure 1.

3. Analysis and Results

3.1. MDSPL Languages Identified

We have identified 17 languages which are being used for Model-driven SPL as shown in Table 2. And mostly languages are used in software engineering like UML, Domain Specific Modelling Languages (DSML), Common Variability Language (CVL), SysML, Atlas Transformation Language (ATL), Variability Modeling Language (VML), Xtext and Xtend2, Object-Oriented Language (OOL), and QVT (Query/View/Transformation). These languages are used by many developers to get a required output. These languages are helpful in designing and coding phase.

3.2. MDSPL Tools Identified

We have identified 18 tools are used in this paper but most frequently used tools are, SPLOT Prototyping, Visio, Kola Maker, SuperMod, Protégé tools and INCOSE as shown in Table 3. All identified tools are used to construct models. These tools provide a wide variety of build in shapes, objects, symbols to work with it.

Table 1. Research publication selection details.

Figure 1. Search process.

3.3. MDSPL Techniques Identified

We have identified 14 techniques used for MDSPL as shown in Table 4. Mostly used techniques are Feature Model (FM), Variable Model (VM), Product line architecture (PLA), Orthogonal Variability Model (OVM), Feature-oriented domain analysis (FODA) method, and Feature-oriented reuse method (FORM). These techniques are used widely nowadays for better quality products. MDA uses these techniques to construct models.

4. Answers to Research Questions

Research Question 1: What are the significant languages used for Model Driven Software Product Lines?

Answer: Use of 16 languages has been identified by our research papers as shown in Table 2. UML is widely used language as it is the backbone of all

Table 2. Identified MDSPL languages.

languages. It visualized, specify and construct the document of the software. DSML is used mostly to develop Software, Application and Domain and design the models. OOP is used not to show only the data structure but also data type.

Research Question 2: What are the significant tools used for Model Driven Software Product Lines?

Answer: There are 17 tools identified from selected 71 papers as shown in Table 3. SPLOT identify the similarities and differentiation among software product. It is used for editing, configuring, and debugging FM easily. The basic task is software product line is the analysis of feature model. Analysis tasks are checking the validity and counting valid configurations. SPLOT also contains world’s largest repository of feature models, open model adopted allowing anyone to create or share model with SPL.

Table 3. Identified MDSPL tools.

Research Question 3: Which significant techniques are used for Model Driven Software Product Lines?

Answer: We have identified 14 techniques in our research paper work as shown in Table 4. Software product line development uses different techniques and models. Feature model is one of the main techniques used for MDSPL. Feature model is a compact representation of all the products of the SPL in term of features. Feature model is visually represented by means of a feature diagram.

5. Discussion and Limitations

There are some important languages that are identified in most of the researches as shown in Table 2. Unified modeling language (UML) models can be annotated with performance properties. We defined a comprehensive classification of behavioral variability in behavioral models including UML. UML plays an important role in modeling, classifying, visualizing and constructing the documents. It is a general-purpose modeling language in field of software engineering that provides a standard way to visualize the design of a system and also help in modeling the system. Architecture Description Language (ADL) formally used to alleviating the software development complexity and making this development process with less error rate. It represents formal notations for describing software architectures in terms of coarse-grained components and connectors.

Table 4. Identified MDSPL techniques.

Koala is also an ADL as it supports the description of the structure of a configuration in terms of its components.

The most commonly used technique we found is the feature modeling. It is widely used notation as well as important technique that describes the set of products in SPL. FM is used as Domain requirement variability modeling, which describes the group of requirements such as increased productivity, handling defects and improving quality. It is also widely used during whole product line development process. Feature Modeling is an important technique used to manage common and variable features of Software Product Line (SPL) in applications such as Internet of Things (IoT). It usually used to keep track of similarities and differences. But there are also some complexity issues that the developers face. Moreover, it is very time-consuming task. In recent research, there are scalability issues in SPL product due to occurrence of hardens and constraint violation between relationships of features in final product development. Likewise, variability modeling (VM) aims at creating, evolving, and configuring variability models, which describe the common and variable characteristics.

We briefly describe the techniques along with features as shown in Table 5. This table labels the techniques that we identify from selected researches. The

Table 5. Comparison of techniques based on features.

purpose of this table is to assure that these techniques have important features that make ease for developer to choose according to their requirements needs. Feature model and PLA are more reliable as it has almost all features that show in below table. SPL requires more variability and reusability for software application.

We attempted to observe SPL guidelines, however, still there are some limitations in our work. We have selected a restricted set of keywords and there is a chance that we might have left some important keywords. We have used filter of 2014-19 for selection of research article work, we might have missed some important papers published before 2014. In the same way, we have only chosen five main databases for our research article selection, we might have lost some significant researches from other scientific database engines.

6. Conclusions

This SLR studies the detailed analysis of SPL integrated with MDSD for modern application and domain. We have identified 17 languages, 18 tools and 14 techniques from selected 71 research studies published since 2014. The paper also provides a detailed comparison between the identified techniques on the basis of features provided by them. We concluded that SPL is not bounded to any specific rule, techniques or tool. SPL can make work easy not complex for any application. Model-Driven techniques are more enhanced and maintainable so that it increases the customer satisfaction.

In future work, we intend to implement Automated SPL Testing by integrating model driven testing with SPL with wide-ranging details.

Cite this paper
Yousaf, N. , Akram, M. , Bhatti, A. and Zaib, A. (2019) Investigation of Tools, Techniques and Languages for Model Driven Software Product Lines (SPL): A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of Software Engineering and Applications, 12, 293-306. doi: 10.4236/jsea.2019.127018.
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