This extension is EXPERIMENTAL. The behaviour of this extension -- including the names of its functions and anything else documented about this extension -- may change without notice in a future release of PHP. Use this extension at your own risk.
In Object Oriented Programming, it is common to see the composition of simple classes (and/or instances) into a more complex one. This is a flexible strategy for building complicated objects and object hierarchies and can function as a dynamic alternative to multiple inheritance. There are two ways to perform class (and/or object) composition depending on the relationship between the composed elements: Association and Aggregation.
An Association is a composition of independently constructed and externally visible parts. When we associate classes or objects, each one keeps a reference to the ones it is associated with. When we associate classes statically, one class will contain a reference to an instance of the other class. For example:
Example 1. Class association
Example 2. Object association
Aggregation, on the other hand, implies encapsulation (hidding) of the parts of the composition. We can aggregate classes by using a (static) inner class (PHP does not yet support inner classes), in this case the aggregated class definition is not accessible, except through the class that contains it. The aggregation of instances (object aggregation) involves the dynamic creation of subobjects inside an object, in the process, expanding the properties and methods of that object.
Object aggregation is a natural way of representing a whole-part relationship, (for example, molecules are aggregates of atoms), or can be used to obtain an effect equivalent to multiple inheritance, without having to permanently bind a subclass to two or more parent classes and their interfaces. In fact object aggregation can be more flexible, in which we can select what methods or properties to "inherit" in the aggregated object.
We define 3 classes, each implementing a different storage method:
Example 3. storage_classes.inc
We then instantiate a couple of objects from the defined classes, and perform some aggregations and deaggregations, printing some object information along the way:
Example 4. test_aggregation.php
We will now consider the output to understand some of the side-effects and limitation of object aggregation in PHP. First, the newly created $fs and $ws objects give the expected output (according to their respective class declaration). Note that for the purposes of object aggregation, private elements of a class/object begin with an underscore character ("_"), even though there is not real distinction between public and private class/object elements in PHP.
$fs object Class: filestorage property: data (array) 0 => 3.1415926535898 1 => kludge != cruft method: filestorage method: write $ws object Class: wddxstorage property: data (array) 0 => 3.1415926535898 1 => kludge != cruft property: version = 1.0 property: _id = ID::9bb2b640764d4370eb04808af8b076a5 method: wddxstorage method: store method: _genid
We then aggregate $fs with the WDDXStorage class, and print out the object information. We can see now that even though nominally the $fs object is still of FileStorage, it now has the property $version, and the method store(), both defined in WDDXStorage. One important thing to note is that it has not aggregated the private elements defined in the class, which are present in the $ws object. Also absent is the constructor from WDDXStorage, which will not be logical to aggegate.
Let's aggregate $fs to the WDDXStorage class $fs object Class: filestorage property: data (array) 0 => 3.1415926535898 1 => kludge != cruft property: version = 1.0 method: filestorage method: write method: store
The process of aggregation is cumulative, so when we aggregate $fs with the class DBStorage, generating an object that can use the storage methods of all the defined classes.
Now let us aggregate it to the DBStorage class $fs object Class: filestorage property: data (array) 0 => 3.1415926535898 1 => kludge != cruft property: version = 1.0 property: dbtype = mysql method: filestorage method: write method: store method: save
Finally, the same way we aggregated properties and methods dynamically, we can also deaggregate them from the object. So, if we deaggregate the class WDDXStorage from $fs, we will obtain:
And deaggregate the WDDXStorage methods and properties $fs object Class: filestorage property: data (array) 0 => 3.1415926535898 1 => kludge != cruft property: dbtype = mysql method: filestorage method: write method: save
One point that we have not mentioned above, is that the process of aggregation will not override existing properties or methods in the objects. For example, the class FileStorage defines a $data property, and the class WDDXStorage also defines a similar property which will not override the one in the object acquired during instantiation from the class FileStorage.