Size Does Matter: A New Metric to Keep Your Architecture Agile.Erik E. Stein
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Large codebases have structural problems that do not occur in smaller codebases. These problems are emergent in nature and typically not noticed until some indirect symptoms rear their ugly heads. (“What do you mean it will take six weeks to change that!?”) Even then, the root causes are often not identified and, regardless, are costly to correct. Left untreated, these structural problems eventually make changes to code so costly that the software becomes brittle and unchangeable within the cost and time constraints of the business. This is the software equivalent of hardened arteries, and, like the medical condition, it is a silent killer.
The traditional metrics of architecture complexity are insensitive to, or worse, favor structural changes that increase codebase complexity. Our recent research has identified and characterized this phenomenon and we offer a new metric, the Layer Respect Metric, which sheds light on this problem and helps us balance our uses of the traditional measures of architectural complexity to ensure our codebases are as agile as our teams.