Quality Attribute Variability in Software Product Lines - Varying Performance and Security Purposefully

Varvana Myllärniemi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Software product line engineering is a plan-driven paradigm to produce varying software products. Software product lines typically differentiate the products by their functionality. However, customers may have different needs regarding performance, security, reliability, or other quality attributes. Building a software product line that is able to efficiently produce products with purposefully different quality attributes is a challenging task. The aim in this dissertation was to study why and how to vary quality attributes purposefully in a software product line. The study focused on two quality attributes, performance and security. We conducted a systematic literature review on quality attribute variability, conducted two case studies on performance variability, and constructed a design theory and artifacts addressing security variability. The results indicate that quality attributes can be purposefully varied to serve different customer needs, to conduct price differentiation, and to better balance product and design trade-offs. Additionally, quality attributes can be varied to adapt to varying operating environment constraints. The quality attribute differences can be communicated to the customers as observable product properties, as internal resources, or as the target operating environments. In particular, security can be distinguished as countermeasures. In the product line architecture, quality attribute differences can be designed through software or hardware design tactics or by relying on indirect variation. Just designing the differences may not be enough to ensure the product has given quality attributes, but the impact of other variability may need to be handled at the product-line or product level. Our contributions are as follows. Instead of focusing on how to represent quality attribute variability, we focused on understanding the phenomenon of how specific quality attributes vary. We identified several differences between performance and security variability, for example, that security is more difficult to distinguish to the customers but more straightforward to design and derive. We combined design and customer viewpoints: the reason to vary and the means to communicate to the customers should be analyzed both from the technical and non-technical viewpoints. Finally, we drew evidence-based generalizable knowledge from the industrial context.
Translated title of the contributionLaatuvarioituvuus ohjelmistotuoteperheissä: Suorituskyvyn ja tietoturvan tarkoituksellinen varioituvuus
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Kauppinen, Marjo, Supervising Professor
  • Männistö, Tomi, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6413-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6414-7
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • software product lines
  • quality attributes
  • variability

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