Object-oriented software engineering

Ivar Jacobson

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I was intrigued by Robert Martin's talk about "Architecture: The Lost Years". In it he discusses the Entity, Boundary, Control design pattern on which MVC is based. I love the idea of deferring architectural decisions. He described deferring the decision about how to implement the DB layer in his own wiki app FitNesse. I have organically deferred decisions like this in my own coding, though there wasn't a preconceived modular design that brought this about.

I want to better understand this EBC architecture (which seems closely related to DCI) from a practical standpoint so that I can begin using in a small project. I want to capitalize on "deferring decisions" and the ability to swap out aspects of the design like the UI.

Rails, for example, uses a form of EBC (MVC) but it's so heavily baked in that one could not easily substitute an alternate UI thus converting a Rails app to a console app or a desktop app. The intriguing thing about design for me is this ability to transform applications by swapping one thing out and plugging another in. That is, I wonder at the idea of designing an architecture so that one can, in a manner of speaking, swap out the UI or the persistence layer. I feel that if the architecture is well designed, the coupling will be low, and such a feat will be within grasp.

I've ordered the book by Ivar Jacobson that Bob mentioned in his talk. I've search online quite a bit but all of the examples I've found show simple diagrams. I speak code. I would benefit more from looking over a few simple classes that demonstrate the concept and show how one might swap out one layer (UI, DB) for some other implementation through the use of boundary classes.

If someone can't point me to a good resource illustrating this, would this be hard to whip up? Maybe we could use the standby example used in lots of software books: a video rental store (almost a relic these days). Please demonstrate how the UI or DB layer could be swapped. One thing that's confusing me is views. I can't tell from the diagrams I've seen if the views are the boundary classes themselves or if they just communicate with them. Also, Bob mentioned that the original intent of EBC was that we'd have lots of micro-views not a single macro-view (as we do in typical MVC); I'm curious what this might look like. (I prefer Ruby or JavaScript but, as beggars can't be choosers, any example would be fine.)

Thank you.

As far as I understand the video by Uncle Bob using "EBI" (Entity, Boundary, and Interactor) you should completely decouple your business behavior/state from frameworks/OS and services.

So in case of an Rails app your business behavior/state is completly free of dependencies to the Rails framework and hence can be tested like with rspec without firing Rails!

So on the business side you have Boundary classes wich interact with the Rails side using request and response models (very simple dataholders, not to be exchanged with the usual models from Rails). Only the Boundary classes interact with the Interactor classes which implement the (business) use cases / scenarios. And only the Interactor classes interact with the Entity classes which encapsulate the business state.

On the Rails side you find Controller classes interacting with Boundary classes (using Request models) and backwards a Boundary class interacts with a Presenter (using a Response model). Only Presenters/Controllers interact with Views (with the help of models (again simple data-holders). Note that in the realm of Rails Presenters are most likely Controllers.

Where does this leave AR? Well AR just provides the persistant service. On the same level as the Presenter/Controller level you will find Service classes which provide their services to the Boundary classes. So they provide all the necessary services which are frameworks/OS/technology dependent like persistance, security, timing, notifaction, etc..

With this architecture you are really able to reuse your business logic and completely replace the UI or database technology. For example, porting to mobile (iOS, Android, Windows) should be pretty straight forward.

With Rails, your app folder could look like:

    controllers/    Only these interact with Boundary classes
    models/         simple data-holders, no AR here! (see services)
    services/       AR-stuff
    boundaries/     To be tested without Rails
         models/    Request & Response
    interactors/    use cases / scenarios, to be tested without Rails
         entities/  "the real business model without technical dependencies"

With this architecture, you need to code a bit more but don't forget the benefits of a good architecture:

  1. A good architecture allows major changes to be deferred
  2. A good architecture maximizes (major) changes not made

Last note: compared to the MVC pattern, its more like the M is replaced by EBI, the C can be splitted in CP/resenter), and an S(ervice) is added. So this could be called: VCPS/EBI but that sounds ugly to me ;-) BEPVICS maybe?

@Seralize, thanks for your feedback.

Let me try to answer your questions, so far I understand them: the stuff in services are coupled to Rails. They provide the implementation for the logic in EBI side. In the usecase of security, you have to be clear what (quantified) requirements you have, so you know what logic you can implement on EBI side, for instance (business) rules about when a user(role) has access to what content(and needs to be authenticated).

This means to implement authentication will be implemented using Rails, this service will be used by EBI. This security related logic in EBI is then pretty easy to reuse in your Java GUI example. There you have only to reimplement the authentication service.

To be clear in the security example:

The EBI side has the logic: what stuff needs what kind of security and when and how. The Rails knows nothing about this, it request what to do from the EBI side and or the EBI side request the Rails side to act.

The Rails side only implements the way how to do security like asking the user to authenticate (when needed) and passing the result of this to EBI so the logic can decide what should be done next.

EBI demands both sides to be decoupled & independent. It were as you are developing the EBI as a library with a defined API.

Are use cases just multiple user stories??

What are the benefits of using user stories over use cases.. and vice-versa... When to use one over other... Does all agile methodologies uses user stories??

Actually, the original use cases (see Jacobson's OOSE) were pretty lightweight, much as user stories are now. Over time, they evolved until a common format for "use cases" now is a complicated document with inputs, outputs, inheritance, uses relationships, pseudocode, etc. Programmers, in general, try to convert everything into programming.

In any case, the attempt to defined what distinguishes a "use case" from a "user story" fro a "scenario" is pretty futile, as it's hard to find two authorities who agree.\

Personally, I find the pattern "[Actor] [verbs] [noun] to get [business value]" helpful. If it gets over about a paragraph of text, it may be too big.

Is there any website where people share and discuss good examples of object-oriented design?

Ideally such website should be populated with posts of the following structure:

  • Concise description of the problem, including definitions, links, etc.
  • Several attempts of OO design, diagrams, pseudocode listings (voted up/down by users)
    • Comments (also voted by users)

Currently I'm looking for a source of inspiration.


Object Oriented Software Construction - Betrand Mayer

He's the man that originated the Eiffel language, the most complete analysis of OO software construction I've read.

Well I can't point you to web sites, but I can refer you to some great books :

Of course, those are C++ books, but a lot of concepts in them applies to much more than just C++

I have an interface:

public interface IMyObject

I have an abstract class:

public abstract class MyObject : IMyObject

And I have a class:

public class MyExtendedObject : MyObject

There are many interfaces, abstracts and concretes like this in my project. I wonder what is the best scenario to organize the code in namespace (folders in project) point of view. Should I put all related stuff under the same folder or should create, for example a Base namespace for abstract classes, Interfaces namespace for interfaces and another namespace for extended objects?

Robert C. Martin (one of the founding fathers of Agile and now the Software Craftmanship movement) has a whole talk on that that is really worth watching

It's based on Ivar Jacobson's Object Oriented Software Engineering: A Use Case Driven Approach.

To summarize it in a few sentences, your project structure should reflect what it models and not the technology or particular language constructs you use. In the case of your abstract/interface/concrete classes this means that using a structure where you put all your abstract classes in a folder/namspace/assembly, your concrete classes in another folder/namespace/assembly is not the way to go (even though it is very common to find projects where this approach is taken).

I think I am pretty good with programming C# syntax. What I am looking for now is some resources, books(preferable), websites, blogs, that deal with the best way to design object oriented Desktop Applications and Web applications, especially when it comes to data and databases.


Martin Fowler's Enterprise-Application-Architecture is a great book for common pattern's you'll see in a lot of client server applications.

More of a book on thinking about object oriented problems is Eric Evan's Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software

You are asking to drink from a firehose. Let me encourage you to write some small programs before you tackle big ones. However, here are a few books about design and a paper which argues that a lot of design can't be learned from books:

  • On System Design is a good short paper that articulates what a lot of experienced programmers think about the art of design.

  • Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley presents some lovely examples of design in the small. It's a fun read and includes many classic stories.

  • The Unix Programming Environment by Kernighan and Pike presents one of the great software-design philosophies of the 20th century. Still required reading after almost 25 years.

  • Software Tools in Pascal is narrower and deeper but will tell you a lot about the specifics of building software tools and the design philosophy.

  • Abstraction and Specification in Program Development by Barbara Liskov and John Guttag will teach you how to design individual modules so they can fit with other modules to form great libraries. It is out of print but your local University library may have it.

  • C Interfaces and Implementations presents a very well designed library that gives C programmers the abstractions found in much higher-level languages.

  • Finally, Test-Driven Development will teach you how to articulate and develop a design through the stuff that matters: what your software actually does.

I learned a lot from Composite/Structured Design by Glenford Myers, but it bears a little less directly on the topics you asked about. It talks primarily about good and bad ways modules can interdepend.

For a book on how to develop software I would recommend The Pragmatic Programmer. For design you may want to look at Interface Oriented Design. Code Complete is an "A to Z" reference on developing software. You might also want to consider the O'Reilly Head First books, especially Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design, as something a little easier to start with.

EDIT I don't know how I forgot about Bob Martin, but you could also read any of the books that Object Mentor has on any of it's lists. Here is their section on Software Design. In particular I'd recommend Agile Software Development: Principles, Patterns, and Practices (Amazon, but it's also the second book on the Object Mentor list).

I haven't been thrilled with any of the recent books, so much so that I'm seriously thinking about writing a new one. The "Head First" books generally have read to me ike one step above the "For Dummies" books (to be fair, I haven't read that one.)

I'm actually fond of Peter Coad's Java Design; you can get one cheaply used, it's no longer in print. Obviously, it's Java heavy, but the design part is good, and pretty lightweight.

Ivar Jacobson's Object Oriented Software Engineering is also very good (it introduced the idea of "use cases", among other things) and does appear to still be in print, but there are zillions of used copies around.