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One of the confounding facts in any attempt at architectural modernization is that a great deal of the code in any application is predictable based on the application architecture and the context. Since both the programmer and person paying the programmer are often impressed with the amount of work required to create the code in its current form, this probably deserves some explanation.

Consider the case of the simple file maintenance functions that provide the foundation for any application. Unless there has already been some architectural modernization in the life of the product, chances are that all of these functions within a given application have a great deal of similarity.

Part of these functions is predictable based on other key information, i.e., it derives from the data dictionary and the relationships between tables. Another significant portion of these functions is simply “the way we write file maintenance programs in the current architecture”. It is only what is left when these two aspects are removed that constitutes unique business logic, e.g. validation rules not contained in the dictionary. It is only this portion that is of interest in harvesting.

Thus, if one is migrating to a new architecture and thinks of the same file maintenance functions there, they will also be largely predictable from the data dictionary and those small bits of business logic. In both contexts, the bulk of any program is “chaff” and the wheat is limited to the pieces related to the data dictionary and the small bits of business logic.

Of course, applications don’t consist entirely of file maintenance functions, but similar statements apply to inquiry functions and simple list reports. The same principles even apply to many transaction entry functions since those often consist of what amounts to a file maintenance operation coupled with some piece of business logic that creates the impact of the transaction. This means that there is likely to be more business logic than in a simple file maintenance function, but it doesn’t necessarily imply that the basic portion that deals with creation, deletion, and editing of records is any different than the file maintenance case.

Harvesting, then, is the process of identifying these pieces of business logic in the midst of all of the other existing code. In some cases, the target can be reasonably apparent because a particular function represents a key transaction in the system, for example. But, in the case of the smaller pieces of business logic which are embedded in large amounts of largely predictable code, it can take considerable effort to identify the desired fragments so that they can be preserved and re-used.

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