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Guide to static code analysis  

Guide to static code analysis  

Operating business in this digital age is no less than a challenge. To stay ahead of the curve, software companies should meet changing customer requirements and evolving business demands. And this has forced companies to crank up speed in their software development life cycles.

Developers are, therefore, under high pressure to meet tight deadlines without compromising on the software quality. They are expected to write efficient, clean, scalable, understandable, and maintainable codes in a shorter period, which ideally is a bit tricky. 

 

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What if developers get access to tools that review their source code and detect errors and bugs before the code is run? Detection of code defects in a non-runtime environment will help developers to notice errors and bugs much earlier, saving a lot of their precious time. Well, this is what static code analysis all about.

Let’s have a brief comprehension of what static code analysis exactly is. 

What is static code analysis?

Static code analysis is a method that examines code and detects software vulnerabilities before running the program. This analysis is capable of identifying quality issues, including:

  • Code security weaknesses
  • Code issues
  • Code errors
  • Coding standard violations

It is important to note that static code analysis cannot identify whether the code fulfills product possibilities, criteria, and requirements. Also, it doesn’t determine how the code will execute. It only identifies errors, vulnerabilities, and flaws in the source code, ensuring quality software reaches the QA team. 

Now that the definition is clear, let’s move on to ways how analysis can be undertaken. 

How is static code analysis undertaken?

Static code analysis can be carried out either manually or with the help of automated tools. However, carrying out a manual code review is not an easy undertaking. Imagine a handful of developers reviewing code written by other teams while making sure they don’t fail to miss out on any deadline. That’s indeed a difficult task, isn’t it? 

On the other hand, providing the right automated tool to developers could save developers’ time and effort to a  greater extent. Developers can follow the steps outlined below to use a static code analyzer tool:

  1. Write the code.
  2. Check for potential code bugs and vulnerabilities using a static code analyzer tool. 
  3. Assess the analysis report. The report might contain several issues, including warnings (which need not be fixed). 4.
  4. Assign professionals to work to interpret and prioritize this analysis report. 
  5. Pick out critical issues that need a mandatory fix. 
  6. Handoff to the QA team. 

Unlike any human auditor, an automated static code analysis tool will generate reports in less time. With intelligent algorithms, the tool efficiently tracks bugs and errors, helping developers to fix them faster. However, it is important to make a wise decision on which automated tool will best suit your business.

In this guide, we have explained things to consider before you choose any tool. But first, let’s know the good and not-so-good things about static code analysis. 

Advantages and Limitations

Without any delay, we will now list down the potential benefits that developers can reap from static code analysis. 

  • Write high-quality code -- Early detection of possible programming errors help developers to know where they went wrong. This can educate developers on improving their coding practices. 
  • Achieve regulatory compliance -- Achieving software compliance is crucial for the stability and security of products. With this, developers can comprehensively test their code in a non-runtime environment, ensuring all code standards are met and enterprise security is achieved. 
  • Accelerate software development life-cycles -- Static code analysis ensures high-quality code reaches testers in lesser time. This means, even testers take much time to test the product, thus accelerating software development life-cycles. 

Let’s now dig in where exactly static code analysis lacks

  • Produce false positives -- False positives are errors (or say warnings) that doesn’t require any fix. However in some tools, without fixing the issue, developers aren’t allowed to resume their work, which can cause timeline problems. 
  • Produce false negatives -- False negatives are errors or issues that get unnoticed by the tool. This can be quite rare, however, if it occurs it can cause real problems to the software in the future. 
  • Lack of experts to fix errors -- Whenever analysis detects any weakness in the code, companies must have a team of professionals who can fix it on priority. Not able to fix issues on time could lead to missed deadlines.

What is an ideal stage to perform static code analysis?

Many of you might ask, what’s the best time to get started with code analysis? Well, it depends on what your goal is. 

It is essential to understand the aim for which you have decided to start with static code analysis. If your objective behind adopting this analysis method is security, then you can review the code on completion of a product requirement. On the other hand, if the objective is to meet coding standards, then you will have to use the tool for every function. 

Ideally, this analysis technique should be carried out on the partially-complete code. Depending on what your business requirement is, you can decide on whether to perform the scans periodically or in real-time. 

How to choose the right automated static code analysis tool?

There are many things that companies should consider before choosing an analysis tool. However, we have listed a few must-consider things, in this section. 

  1. Does the tool support programming languages that you use?
  2. Does the tool integrate with all your development platforms?
  3. Does the tool have a suppression mechanism to dismiss false positives and resume with coding?
  4. Does the tool provide summaries of code vulnerabilities?
  5. Does the tool provide a collaborative platform where everyone can view, examine, and analyze the report?
  6. Does the tool allow you to add rules so that it fits well with your business requirements?

Industry leaders should take all of these questions into account before they decide on any automated code analysis tool. 

Conclusion

Today, the tool can find flaws in the source code before running the program. Perhaps, in the coming future, it might recommend developers with a solution to fix the errors, helping them deliver software even faster. 

Truly, a static code analysis tool is every developer’s savior, helping them to develop software without sacrificing accuracy, speed, and quality. And not to forget, every company’s best friend, increasing sales and profit margins. 

 

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Comments

  • Deepak

    January 10, 2020

    Very thoughtful.

    reply

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