Not every software engineer agrees with the idea of defining software architecture in every situation and regardless of your team size. Some argue that when only one person is involved, software architecture is unnecessary. All the same, most software consulting and engineering experts think otherwise. The majority of them believe software architecture is a fundamental principle that every programmer should embrace.
The underlying benefit of software architecture is streamlining the software development process as well as making it as efficient as it is practically possible. At its core, software architecture should be “a how to guide” of sorts, proclaiming, “this is the way we build applications.”
Software architecture is very important, essentially determining the quality as well as the longevity of a system. In fact, it revolves around making decisions regarding the fundamental structure of the system, which would be extremely expensive to change once it is implemented. Moreover, a well-structured system makes disaster recovery solutions quite easy in the event of a disaster hitting your business process.
When defining their software architecture, most people talk about all the most important parts that make up their system and how they fit together. They will often also include in the description the crucial decisions they had to make while designing those systems.
So, What Is Software Architecture?
We can define software architecture as a continuously evolving and harmonized set of technical decisions and architectural patterns that are made so that the code structure can satisfy every requirement of the software being developed, while embodying transversal attributes like performance, quality, scalability, maintainability, and usability.
As the definition suggests, it is important to thoroughly think through the software architecture long before you write your first line of code. Consequently, frontend and backend developers must collaborate from the very initial stages of development to ensure that the structure created is stable with tremendous scalability.
Best Practices in Software Architecture
There are a number of principles on which a good software architecture is anchored:
Instead of being built to last, it is built to change.
Before any components can be designed, the software architect must clearly understand the needs of the user and the domain.
The software architect must identify the subsystems in the product after which he should consider components and layers and abstract them so as to identify every key interface therein.
Using an iterative and incremental approach to designing the software architecture is a great idea.
Use lessons learned from history, record every decision you make and conclusively mitigate major risks.
Underinvesting in software architecture is not an option.
The Value Proposition of a Good Architecture
A good software architecture makes it possible to deliver high-quality product at a low cost.
A good software architecture allows for better reuse of code resulting in shorter software development turnarounds.
A good software architecture gives room to supporting incremental optimization of code.
A good software architecture facilitates communication between customers and R&D via product management, customer support, and sales.
Considerations of a Software Architect During Software Architecture
A software architect must clearly define the solution he intends to create based on the concerns of the different groups of people who will interact with his product. He must consider:
The concerns of the end user, which include correct and intuitive behavior, reliability, performance, security, availability, and usability.
The concerns of the system administrator, which include intuitive behavior, monitoring, and administrative tools.
The concerns of the marketer, which include cost, positioning relative to other products, time for marketing and competitive features.
The concerns of the customer, which include cost, schedule, and stability.
The concerns of the developer, which include clear requirements as well as a consistent yet simple design approach.
The concerns of the project manager, which include schedule, budget, predictability as it relates to tracking the project and the most productive and effective use of the available resources.
The concerns of the maintainer, which include the ease of making modifications, and a consistent and comprehensive design approach that is well documented.
The Software Architectural Landscape of the 21st Century
As software architecture evolves, software architects have to transition by identifying the key forces shaping software architecture decisions in the present day and those that will define how those designs are made in the coming months and years.
The key forces are, almost always, driven by the demand of businesses to get faster results, achieve improved software design adaptability and improved support for different workflows and work styles. All the same, there are times when user demand is the main driver of these key forces.
Here are some key trends in the software architecture space that you should be on the look out for going forward:
Taking Advantage of Prevailing Market Maturity
By taking advantage of the prevailing market maturity, a software architect can use existing technologies and platforms for software development. By so doing, he puts all his focus on bringing out the unique offering of the application he is working on, instead of spending an incredible amount of time recreating things that already exist. The software engineer can use existing design patterns that are known to be proven solutions for some common software development challenges.
Taking an Approach That Revolves Around User Empowerment
A software architecture is said to be centered around user empowerment if it is configurable, flexible and has an excellent user experience. You should take your time in designing an application that has the necessary user options and personalization levels. An excellent application would typically allow users to define how they wish to interact with it, rather than dictate to them how they should interact with it.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that it is important to avoid the temptation to overload the application with many unnecessary settings and options which end up confusing the user. Simplicity is key; understand the app’s key user scenarios and do your best to simplify them as much as you can. Be deliberate in your attempt to make the process of finding information easy.
Flexible designs have been trending for awhile, in part because they improve maintainability. Programmers prefer using flexible designs because they make use of loose coupling whose effect on maintainability is noteworthy. By using pluggable designs, developers are able to provide extensibility even in the post-deployment period. Furthermore, you can use SOA and other techniques in service orientation to offer interoperability with other software systems.
The Probable Direction of Future Trends
A software architect’s ability to look into the future and correctly predict the direction software architecture will take can be quite helpful. By understanding what the future holds, you can design your architecture in a way that accommodates the probable future changes you might need to do to align with the trends of the time. For an industry where change is inevitable, planning to accommodate it when it occurs is a necessary part of software architecture, a fact many programmers have come to appreciate.