Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI

Jonas Trümper

Visualization Techniques for the Analysis of Software Behavior and Related Structures

Software maintenance encompasses any changes made to a software system after its initial deployment and is thereby one of the key phases in the typical software-engineering lifecycle. In software maintenance, we primarily need to understand structural and behavioral aspects, which are difficult to obtain, e.g., by code reading. Software analysis is therefore a vital tool for maintaining these systems: It provides -- the preferably automated -- means to extract and evaluate information from their artifacts such as software structure, runtime behavior, and related processes.

However, such analysis typically results in massive raw data, so that even experienced engineers face difficulties directly examining, assessing, and understanding these data. Among other things, they require tools with which to explore the data if no clear question can be formulated beforehand. For this, software analysis and visualization provide its users with powerful interactive means. These enable the automation of tasks and, particularly, the acquisition of valuable and actionable insights into the raw data. For instance, one means for exploring runtime behavior is trace visualization. This thesis aims at extending and improving the tool set for visual software analysis by concen- trating on several open challenges in the fields of dynamic and static analysis of software systems. This work develops a series of concepts and tools for the exploratory visualization of the respective data to support users in finding and retrieving information on the system artifacts concerned. This is a diffiult task, due to the lack of appropriate visualization metaphors; in particular, the visuali- zation of complex runtime behavior poses various questions and challenges of both a technical and conceptual nature.

This work focuses on a set of visualization techniques for visually representing control- ow related aspects of software traces from shared-memory software systems: A trace-visualization concept based on icicle plots aids in understanding both single-threaded as well as multi-threaded runtime behavior on the function level. The concept's extensibility further allows the visualization and analysis of specific aspects of multi-threading such as synchronization, the correlation of such traces with data from static software analysis, and a comparison between traces. Moreover, complementary techniques for simultaneously analyzing system structures and the evolution of related attributes are proposed. These aim at facilitating long-term planning of software architecture and supporting management decisions in software projects by extensions to the circular-bundle-view technique: An extension to 3-dimensional space allows for the use of additional variables simultaneously; interaction techniques allow for the modification of structures in a visual manner. The concepts and techniques presented here are generic and, as such, can be applied beyond software analysis for the visualization of similarly structured data. The techniques' practicability is demonstrated by several qualitative studies using subject data from industry-scale software systems. The studies provide initial evidence that the techniques' application yields useful insights into the subject data and its interrelationships in several scenarios.