Single-state state machines in model-driven software engineering: an exploratory study

Nan Yang, Pieter Cuijpers, Ramon Schiffelers, Johan Lukkien, Alexander Serebrenik
2021 Empirical Software Engineering  
Context Models, as the main artifact in model-driven engineering, have been extensively used in the area of embedded systems for code generation and verification. One of the most popular behavioral modeling techniques is the state machine. Many state machine modeling guidelines recommend that a state machine should have more than one state in order to be meaningful. However, single-state state machines (SSSMs) violating this recommendation have been used in modeling cases reported in the
more » ... ure. Objective We aim for understanding the phenomenon of using SSSMs in practice as understanding why developers violate the modeling guidelines is the first step towards improvement of modeling tools and practice. Method To study the phenomenon, we conducted an exploratory study which consists of two complementary studies. The first study investigated the prevalence and role of SSSMs in the domain of embedded systems, as well as the reasons why developers use them and their perceived advantages and disadvantages. We employed the sequential explanatory strategy, including repository mining and interview, to study 1500 state machines from 26 components at ASML, a leading company in manufacturing lithography machines from the semiconductor industry. In the second study, we investigated the evolutionary aspects of SSSMs, exploring when SSSMs are introduced to the systems and how developers modify them by mining the largest state-machine-based component from the company. Results We observe that 25 out of 26 components contain SSSMs. Our interviews suggest that SSSMs are used to interface with the existing code, to deal with tool limitations, to facilitate maintenance and to ease verification. Our study on the evolutionary aspects of SSSMs reveals that the need for SSSMs to deal with tool limitations grew continuously over the years. Moreover, only a minority of SSSMs have been changed between SSSM and multiple-state state machine (MSSM) during their evolution. The most frequent modifications developers made to SSSMs is inserting events with constraints on the execution of the events. Conclusions Based on our results, we provide implications for developers and tool builders. Furthermore, we formulate hypotheses about the effectiveness of SSSMs, the impacts of SSSMs on development, maintenance and verification as well as the evolution of SSSMs.
doi:10.1007/s10664-021-10015-3 fatcat:zan6vbxe6rhxrj2dtumu6cjcom