Dependency Solving Is Still Hard, but We Are Getting Better at It

by Abate, P. and Di Cosmo, R. and Gousios, G. and Zacchiroli, S.

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Dependency solving is a hard (NP-complete) problem in all non-trivial component models due to either mutually incompatible versions of the same packages or explicitly declared package conflicts. As such, software upgrade planning needs to rely on highly specialized dependency solvers, lest falling into pitfalls such as incompleteness—a combination of package versions that satisfy dependency constraints does exist, but the package manager is unable to find it. In this paper we look back at proposals from dependency solving research dating back a few years. Specifically, we review the idea of treating dependency solving as a separate concern in package manager implementations, relying on generic dependency solvers based on tried and tested techniques such as SAT solving, PBO, MILP, etc. By conducting a census of dependency solving capabilities in state-of-the-art package managers we conclude that some proposals are starting to take off (e.g., SAT-based dependency solving) while—with few exceptions—others have not (e.g., outsourcing dependency solving to reusable components). We reflect on why that has been the case and look at novel challenges for dependency solving that have emerged since.

Bibtex record

  author = {{Abate}, P. and {Di Cosmo}, R. and {Gousios}, G. and {Zacchiroli}, S.},
  booktitle = {The 27th IEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution and Reengineering (SANER)},
  title = {Dependency Solving Is Still Hard, but We Are Getting Better at It},
  year = {2020},
  pages = {547-551},
  location = {London, Ontario, Canada},
  doi = {10.1109/SANER48275.2020.9054837},
  url = {/pub/dependency-solving-hard-getting-better.pdf}

The paper