Journal of Systems and Software

Software rejuvenation via a multi-agent approach

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Usually, development teams devote a huge amount of time and effort on maintaining existing software. Since many of these maintenance tasks are not planned, the software tends to degrade over time, causing side effects mainly on its non-functional requirements. This paper proposes the use of a multi-agent system in order to perform perfective maintenance tasks in a software product through refactorings. The software developer chooses the quality attribute that the agents should improve and the agents are able to autonomously search the code for opportunities to apply perfective maintenance, apply the perfective maintenance, and evaluate if the source code quality has been improved. Its main contributions are: (i) the refactorings are autonomously done by software agents during the idle development time; (ii) all changes are stored in isolated branches in order to facilitate the communication with the developers; (iii) the refactorings are applied only when the program semantics is preserved; (iv) the agents are able to learn the more suitable sequence of refactorings to improve a specific quality attribute; and (v) the approach can be extended with other metrics and refactorings. This paper also presents a set of experimental studies that provide evidences of the benefits of our approach for software rejuvenation.