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This paper describes a study on the impact of software structure on maintainability aspects such as comprehensibility, locality, modifiability, and reusability in a distributed system environment. The study was part of a project at the University of Kaiserslautern, West Germany, to design and implement LADY, a LAnguage for Distributed systems. The study addressed the impact of software structure from two perspectives. The language designer's perspective was to evaluate the general impact of the set of structural concepts chosen for LADY on the maintainability of software systems implemented in LADY. The language user's perspective was to derive structural criteria (metrics), measurable from LADY systems, that allow the explanation or prediction of the software maintenance behavior. A controlled maintenance experiment was conducted involving twelve medium-size distributed software systems; six of these systems were implemented in LADY, the other six systems in an extended version of sequential Pascal. The benefits of the structural LADY concepts were judged based on a comparison of the average maintenance behavior of the LADY systems and the Pascal systems; the maintenance metrics were derived by analyzing the interdependence between structure and maintenance behavior of each individual LADY system.
Date of Publication: March 1987