The Stable-Dependencies Principle

What?

The Stable-Dependencies Principle (SDP) says: ”Depend in the direction of stability.”

What this means is that the direction of the dependencies in the component dependency graph should point towards more stable components. To understand what this means we need to define stability for a component. Uncle Bob turns this around and defines a way to measure instability, I, using the formula:

I = Ce / (Ca + Ce)

where Ca is the number of classes outside this component that depend on classes within this component (afferent couplings) and Ce is the number of classes inside this component that depends on classes outside this component (efferent couplings). I has the range [0,1] where I = 0 indicates a maximally stable component and I = 1 indicates a maximally instable component.

A component that does not depend on any other component is maximally stable and a component that only depend on other components but have no components depending on it is maximally instable.

Why?

When we design our components there will be some components that we want to be easy to change. They contain classes that often needs to be modified when requirements change. If these components have many dependencies to them (are very stable; have a value I close to 0) they will be difficult to change since changing them will impact many other components.

Figure 1 shows a component diagram where SDP is violated. The Stable component, that has an instability value of I = 0.25 has a dependency to the Volatile component, that has an instability value of I = 0.75. This dependency makes the volatile component difficult to change.

Figure 1. Violating SDP

How?

So how do we fix violations to SDP? The answer is, once again, inverting dependencies by applying the Dependency Inversion Principle (DIP). Look at Figure 1, to fix the violation we can create an interface or abstract base class and put in a new component, CG. We can then let the Stable component depend on CG and have the Volatile component implement the concrete classes. By doing that we end up with the dependency graph showed in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Conforming to SDP

Now with this change in place the volatile component has been made easier to change.

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