Initialisation Problems in Feature Composition

Nhlabatsi, Armstrong (2009). Initialisation Problems in Feature Composition. PhD thesis The Open University.



Composing features that have inconsistent requirements may lead to feature interactions that violate requirements satisfied by each feature in isolation. These interactions manifest themselves as conflicts on shared resources. Arbitration is a common approach to resolving such conflicts that uses prioritisation to decide which feature has access to resources when there is a conflict. However, arbitration alone does not guarantee satisfaction of the requirement of the feature that eventually gains access to a resource. This is because arbitration does not take into account that the resource may be in a state that is inconsistent with that expected by the feature. We call this the initialisation problem.

In this thesis we propose an approach to addressing the initialisation problem which combines arbitration with contingencies. Contingency means having several specifications per feature satisfying the same requirement, depending on the current resource state. We illustrate and validate our approach by applying it to resolving conflicts between features in smart home and automotive domains. The validation shows that contingencies complement arbitration by enabling satisfaction of the requirement of the feature that eventually gains access to a shared resource, regardless of the current state of the resource.

The main contribution of this thesis is an approach to analysing initialisation concerns in feature composition. At the core of our approach is an explicit consideration of all possible states of a resource as potential initial states. Given each initial state we then derive corresponding specifications that would enable a feature to satisfy its requirement in those states. We show that our approach to initialisation problems is relevant to addressing the feature interaction problem by characterising some types of conflicts as initialisation concerns.

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