Growth, evolution, and structural change in open source software

TitleGrowth, evolution, and structural change in open source software
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsGodfrey, M, Tu, Q
Secondary TitleProceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Principles of Software Evolution (IWPSE 2001)
Place PublishedNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number1-58113-508-4
Keywordsagile methods, beagle, cloning, evolution, fetchmail, gcc, growth, kernel, lehman's laws, lines of code, linux, linux kernel, loc, open source software, software architecture, software evolution, source code, structural change, supporting environments, vim

Our recent work has addressed how and why software systems evolve over time, with a particular emphasis on software architecture and open source software systems [2, 3, 6]. In this position paper, we present a short summary of two recent projects. First, we have performed a case study on the evolution of the Linux kernel [3], as well as some other open source software (OSS) systems. We have found that several OSS systems appear not to obey some of "Lehman's laws" of software evolution [5, 7], and that Linux in particular is continuing to grow at a geometric rate. Currently, we are working on a detailed study of the evolution of one of the subsystems of the Linux kernel: the SCSI drivers subsystem. We have found that cloning, which is usually considered to be an indicator of lazy development and poor process, is quite common and is even considered to be a useful practice. Second, we are developing a tool called Beagle to aid software maintainers in understanding how large systems have changed over time. Beagle integrates data from various static analysis and metrics tools and provides a query engine as well as navigable visualizations. Of particular note, Beagle aims to provide help in modelling long term evolution of systems that have undergone architectural and structural change.


"We measured [linux] system size in uncommented LOC"
"We also examined the growth of several other open source systems, including the VIM text editor, Eric Raymond’s fetchmail utility, and the GCC compiler suite. "

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