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Path Homology as a Stronger Analogue of Cyclomatic Complexity
(2020)
Steve Huntsman
Abstract
Cyclomatic complexity is an incompletely specified but mathematically principled software metric that can be usefully applied to both source and binary code. We consider the application of path homology as a stronger analogue of cyclomatic complexity. We have implemented an algorithm to compute path homology in arbitrary dimension and applied it to several classes of relevant flow graphs, including randomly generated flow graphs representing structured and unstructured control flow. We also compared path homology and cyclomatic complexity on a set of disassembled binaries obtained from the grep utility. There exist control flow graphs realizable at the assembly level with nontrivial path homology in arbitrary dimension. We exhibit several classes of examples in this vein while also experimentally demonstrating that path homology gives identicial results to cyclomatic complexity for at least one detailed notion of structured control flow. We also experimentally demonstrate that the two notions differ on disassembled binaries, and we highlight an example of extreme disagreement. Path homology empirically generalizes cyclomatic complexity for an elementary notion of structured code and appears to identify more structurally relevant features of control flow in general. Path homology therefore has the potential to substantially improve upon cyclomatic complexity.