What is a Dependency: Understanding Its True Definition

Dependency is a critical concept in the IT industry, especially in software development. As the world becomes more interconnected with technology, understanding and managing dependencies has become increasingly important. In fact, a 2020 Gartner report estimated that IT spending on enterprise software reached $426 billion in the same year. This only highlights the growing need for a clear understanding of dependency in order to create valuable and efficient software solutions.

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What is a Dependency? Definition of Dependency

In software development, dependency refers to a situation where a piece of software, a module, or a component relies on another to function properly. When one software module depends on another to execute its tasks, the former becomes dependent on the latter. This can lead to complex relationships between software components, which must be properly managed to ensure that the system as a whole functions effectively.

ℹ️ Synonyms: Reliance, interdependence, connection, linkage, attachment, subordination.

How it Works

Dependency occurs when a software module or component requires the use or inclusion of another module or component to function. Dependencies can be either internal, meaning they exist within the same system, or external, which refers to a dependency on a module or component from a separate system. Examples of external dependencies can include APIs, libraries or frameworks, while internal dependencies might involve one function relying on another within the same application. Managing these relationships effectively ensures that the overall system can adapt to changes and updates, as well as maintain stability throughout its life cycle.

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Benefits of using Dependency

  • Modularity: By establishing clear dependencies, the software becomes more modular and easier to manage. This improves maintainability and makes it easier to update, debug, and extend the software.
  • Reusability: Dependencies enable the creation of reusable components or modules, which can save time and effort, and reduce code duplication across projects.
  • Scalability: Proper dependency management allows the software to scale effectively and handle increased loads and demands.
  • Optimization: Dependency management can help developers identify bottlenecks and optimize code, as well as reduce potential issues such as circular dependencies, which can lead to performance issues and crashes.
  • Maintainability: By clearly defining dependencies, it becomes easier for developers and maintenance teams to understand the relationships between components and ensure the correct functionality of the overall system.

Dependency use cases

Dependency can be found in various use cases, including:

Package Management

Most applications require third-party libraries, modules, or frameworks. A package manager, such as npm for JavaScript or pip for Python, automatically handles the installation and management of these dependencies.

Software Engineering

Software systems are generally built in a modular and layered manner, with each component or module having its own set of dependencies. Proper management of dependencies is essential for a well-structured, efficient, and maintainable software solution.

Inversion of Control (IoC) and Dependency Injection

In software design patterns such as IoC, dependency injection is used to achieve loose coupling and better modularity. It involves injecting dependencies into objects, rather than having the objects directly instantiate or gather their dependencies.

Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

Dependency management plays a major role in CI/CD pipelines, where the integration and deployment of code changes involve verifying that dependencies are resolved, updated, and properly functioning without breaking the system.

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Best Practices

When dealing with dependencies, it’s essential to follow best practices to ensure the software remains stable, maintainable, and efficient. This includes using a declarative approach to list dependencies in a manifest file, such as package.json for JavaScript projects or requirements.txt for Python projects. This makes the dependencies explicit and easy to manage. Also, avoid using global dependencies whenever possible and instead utilize local dependencies to reduce potential conflicts. Regularly review and update dependencies to ensure compatibility and security, and try to remove unused or unnecessary dependencies to minimize the maintenance burden. Lastly, consider adopting a dependency management tool, such as a package manager or containerization platform, to help manage dependencies more effectively.

Most recommended books about Dependency

For those interested in learning more about dependency and its management, here are some of the most recommended books on the subject:

1. “Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software” by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides
2. “Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship” by Robert C. Martin
3. “Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software” by Eric Evans
4. “Dependency Injection in .NET” by Mark Seemann
5. “Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code” by Martin Fowler

Conclusion

Dependency is an integral concept in software development that cannot be ignored. By understanding and managing dependencies effectively, developers can create more efficient, maintainable, and scalable software systems. Implementing best practices and utilizing tools and resources such as books, package managers, and design patterns allows developers to navigate through the complexities of dependencies and build successful software solutions.

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Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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li-url Lou Reverchuk

IT Entrepreneur

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