Meaningful Composite Structures

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UML2 composite structures are a natural solution for the basic modeling issues associated with component-oriented approaches. They provide mechanisms for defining reusable ”pieces” of design, which are well-encapsulated through explicit interaction ports. While intuitive in principle, the semantics of request propagation across ports may cause semantic ambiguities if the composition mechanisms are not used consistently, thus leading to meaningless composite structures (that cannot be safely reused within the context of a particular environment). To ensure consistent usage, this article proposes an empirical study that provides an intuitive description of composite structure semantics focusing on request propagations across ports. It supplements this description by highlighting cases conducive to semantic ambiguities and offers practical solutions and a rationale for building composite structures that avoid them. Among possible solutions, the opportuneness of encapsulating explicit behaviors in ports is discussed.