Effective Aspects: A Typed Monadic Embedding of Pointcuts and Advice

Published in Transactions on Aspect-Oriented Software Development XI, 2014

Abstract

Aspect-oriented programming (AOP) aims to enhance modularity and reusability in software systems by offering an abstraction mechanism to deal with crosscutting concerns. However, in most general-purpose aspect languages aspects have almost unrestricted power, eventually conflicting with these goals. In this work we present Effective Aspects: a novel approach to embed the pointcut/advice model of AOP in a statically typed functional programming language like Haskell. Our work extends EffectiveAdvice, by Oliveira, Schrijvers, and Cook; which lacks quantification, and explores how to exploit the monadic setting in the full pointcut/advice model. Type soundness is guaranteed by exploiting the underlying type system, in particular phantom types and a new anti-unification type class. Aspects are first-class, can be deployed dynamically, and the pointcut language is extensible, therefore combining the flexibility of dynamically typed aspect languages with the guarantees of a static type system. Monads enables us to directly reason about computational effects both in aspects and base programs using traditional monadic techniques. Using this we extend Aldrich’s notion of Open Modules with effects, and also with protected pointcut interfaces to external advising. These restrictions are enforced statically using the type system. Also, we adapt the techniques of EffectiveAdvice to reason about and enforce control flow properties. Moreover, we show how to control effect interference using the parametricity-based approach of EffectiveAdvice. However, this approach falls short when dealing with interference between multiple aspects. We propose a different approach using monad views, a recently developed technique for handling the monad stack. Finally, we exploit the properties of our monadic weaver to enable the modular construction of new semantics for aspect scoping and weaving. These semantics also benefit fully from the monadic reasoning mechanisms present in the language. This work brings type-based reasoning about effects for the first time in the pointcut/advice model, in a framework that is both expressive and extensible; thus allowing development of robust aspect-oriented systems as well as being a useful research tool for experimenting with new aspect semantics.