loose coupling definition

Loose coupling is an approach to interconnecting the components in a system or network so that those components, also called elements, depend on each other to the least extent practicable. Coupling refers to the degree of direct knowledge that one element has of another.

The goal of a loose coupling architecture is to reduce the risk that a change made within one element will create unanticipated changes within other elements. Limiting interconnections can help isolate problems when things go wrong and simplify testing, maintenance and troubleshooting procedures.

A loosely coupled system can be easily broken down into definable elements. The extent of coupling in a system can be measured by mapping the maximum number of element changes that can occur without adverse effects. Examples of such changes include adding elements, removing elements, renaming elements, reconfiguring elements, modifying internal element characteristics and rearranging the way in which elements are interconnected. 

Although loose coupling minimizes unnecessary interaction among system elements, it can create problems when such interaction is desired. For example, in some data-centric systems a high degree of element interdependence is necessary for synchronization in real time. 

See also: sysplex, massively parallel processing, SAP Application Link Enabling, service-oriented architecture, multiprocessing

This was first published in February 2011

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