What is a framework in programming and engineering?
In software engineering and programming, a framework is a collection of reusable software components that make it more efficient to develop new applications. The reuse of existing development and research is an essential principle in all engineering fields. For instance, electrical engineers use existing electronic components to make new devices. Component manufacturers follow predetermined standards and specifications to ensure component usability. Similarly, software frameworks contain reusable code modules based on specific software standards and protocols. Frameworks may also define and enforce certain software architecture rules or business processes, so new applications can be developed in a standardized manner.
What are the benefits of using software frameworks?
Software frameworks change how developers traditionally work when building software. When software teams and organizations use programming frameworks, they benefit in several ways.
Improve code quality
Software frameworks contain software components designed to a high programming standard. Developers can use the software framework with strong confidence that fewer bugs will affect the underlying codes. Moreover, software frameworks are structured in ways that improve code readability. Software teams can collaborate more effortlessly when they share a common understanding of the software workflow that the framework abstracts.
Reduce development time
Software frameworks improve programming efficiency, and organizations can use them to release functional applications faster. With a good software framework, developers can focus on writing high-level code that handles business logic instead of foundational coding modules. For example, developers can use an open source framework to provide database access and develop ecommerce software on top of it.
Moreover, frameworks help developers avoid writing redundant and duplicate code that may slow or bloat applications.
Better software security
With a broader codebase, it’s difficult for developers to detect and respond to code security issues. In contrast, a good software framework comprises ready security checkpoints that make it easier for developers to strengthen code and data security.
Efficient code review
Before releasing an application, developers put the code to test at several development stages. Every software function, API, data structure, and module must pass specific code review requirements. By using a framework, software teams can validate their applications with comprehensive test cases and code coverage. Also, developers find it easier to debug and remediate code issues on a well-structured framework.
Developers can use software frameworks to be more agile when they implement major software changes. They can retain the project-specific code while swapping different frameworks that suit their goals. This reduces the code rewrites developers need to undertake. For example, you can upgrade an image recognition application by replacing its existing machine learning (ML) framework with a more robust one.
How does a framework work?
A framework provides a flexible range of software components that help developers accelerate software development to production deployment. It consists resources built for a programming language, like APIs, code libraries, debuggers, and compilers. For example, Ruby on Rails is a web application framework developed in the Ruby language.
We explain common framework components next:
- APIs are protocols that allow different software to communicate in a mutually understandable format
- Code libraries are a collection of reusable software functions that developers can plug into their codes
- Compilers are software tools that developers use to convert source codes into deployable application files
- Debuggers are tools that help programmers find and correct mistakes in codes
Inversion of control
Developers use a software framework’s parts as building blocks for their applications. While the framework provides the necessary resources to speed up development, it also changes the procedural flow of the application.
Inversion of control (IoC) is a design principle that inverts the flow of control as compared to traditional control flow. Instead of the application code controlling the flow and making calls to reusable libraries, the main application passes control to the framework. The framework then provides additional support and direction to the application code through various software mechanisms. It results in loosely coupled software functions and classes, which improve software maintainability, flexibility, and scalability.
Framework vs. library
Both frameworks and libraries are reusable code written by someone else that help developers build applications more efficiently. However, a library is a collection of utilities or functions that the application code calls when required. Libraries are task-specific, such as enabling ML implementations with already-written codes. The library acts as a helper and tool to your application.
By contrast, a framework is a structural blueprint that dictates application development. It provides a skeleton wherein developers fill in the specifics—customizing a part of its behavior by adhering to its architecture. Developers have to shape their application and its architecture around the framework's rules and structures. The flow of control is also passed to the framework, which may internally call libraries if required.
What are the common types of frameworks?
Developers use several types of frameworks to build different applications.
Web application frameworks
Web application frameworks consist of programming tools and resources for building web applications, websites, single-page applications, and their respective backend services. They help developers integrate various web components and programming languages for building functional web applications.
These are two subcategories of web frameworks that developers use.
Backend frameworks give developers backend components. like data access and web services, for developing server-side applications. Ruby on Rails and Django are popular backend frameworks in the web development community.
Mobile development frameworks
Mobile development frameworks reduce the complexities of building native and cross-platform mobile applications. Unlike web development, building an app for mobile devices require careful consideration of the device's operating systems and hardware specifications.
Mobile development frameworks reduce development time by providing the needed libraries, compilers, and mobile components for different mobile platforms. Software teams can also use them to build cross-platform applications. For example, developers use Flutter to create mobile apps from a single codebase that work in Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS.
Data science frameworks
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are complex data science subjects that require immense technical knowledge. Data science frameworks help developers build and deploy ML-powered applications for large-scale data processing. Instead of writing complex machine learning codes, they use the already-written libraries in their ML applications. For example, data scientists use popular frameworks like TensorFlow and PyTorch to develop natural language processing (NLP) systems.
What are the features of a high-quality framework?
You can choose from various available frameworks to automate and streamline the entire software development process. Several criteria help determine a good software framework that provides a solid structural foundation for developers.
Your framework should demonstrate consistent and predictable behavior when you apply it to the different programming languages and software functionalities it supports. For example, when you build a mobile app with a cross-platform framework, you expect the app to run accordingly on iOS and Android phones.
A good framework is consistently tested for vulnerabilities, revised, and upgraded to provide developers with secure code libraries, APIs, and software components. It also has good extensibility with provisions for future upgrades. This way, developers can stay up-to-date with evolving software changes without replacing the entire framework.
Your framework should have sufficient documentation and examples that describe the framework implementations clearly. Otherwise, developers might need additional implementation training to develop software with the framework. Developers can get involved with a vibrant community to discuss needs, seek support, and access resources that help them use the framework optimally.
What are the challenges of using frameworks?
Developers can use software frameworks to focus on writing code specific to their projects and avoid spending unnecessary resources on the underlying technology.
Despite their advantages, using a framework requires thoughtful considerations in certain circumstances. For example, if you're building a simple application, you might not need a software framework. It takes time to set up a framework and learn to build an application around it. Furthermore, compiling the framework increases a simple application's code footprint significantly.
Using a programming framework also requires a thorough understanding of how each software component works. Even with extensive documentation, developers might need more time to familiarize themselves with the framework. When you use a framework to build an application, you also rely more on the performance and security it provides. If the framework consists of latent bugs or vulnerabilities, all applications built upon it are affected.
How can AWS support your framework requirements?
Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides several robust frameworks to support your digital transformation needs.
Whether you want to strategize cloud adoption or scale modern web applications, you can save costs, time, and resources with these AWS-driven frameworks:
- AWS Cloud Adoption Framework (AWS CAF) accelerates your cloud readiness with best practices across different business capabilities
- AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) is a framework that developers can use to deploy cloud resources in their preferred programming languages
- With TensorFlow on AWS, machine learning engineers can quickly train and deploy deep learning models in the cloud
Get started with frameworks on AWS by creating an account today.