Software architecture: Wikis


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The software architecture of a program or computing system is the structure or structures of the system, which comprise software components, the externally visible properties of those components, and the relationships between them. The term also refers to documentation of a system's software architecture. Documenting software architecture facilitates communication between stakeholders, documents early decisions about high-level design, and allows reuse of design components and patterns between projects.[1]



The field of computer science has come across problems associated with complexity since its formation.[2] Earlier problems of complexity were solved by developers by choosing the right data structures, developing algorithms, and by applying the concept of separation of concerns. Although the term “software architecture” is relatively new to the industry, the fundamental principles of the field have been applied sporadically by software engineering pioneers since the mid 1980s. Early attempts to capture and explain software architecture of a system were imprecise and disorganized, often characterized by a set of box-and-line diagrams.[3] During the 1990’s there was a concentrated effort to define and codify fundamental aspects of the discipline. Initial sets of design patterns, styles, best practices, description languages, and formal logic were developed during that time. The software architecture discipline is centered on the idea of reducing complexity through abstraction and separation of concerns. To date there is still no agreement on the precise definition of the term “software architecture”.[4]

As a maturing discipline with no clear rules on the right way to build a system, designing software architecture is still a mix of art and science. The “art” aspect of software architecture is because a commercial software system supports some aspect of a business or a mission. How a system supports key business drivers is described via scenarios as non-functional requirements of a system, also known as quality attributes, determine how a system will behave.[5] Every system is unique due to the nature of the business drivers it supports, as such the degree of quality attributes exhibited by a system such as fault-tolerance, backward compatibility, extensibility, reliability, maintainability, availability, security, usability, and such other –ilities will vary with each implementation.[5]

To bring a software architecture user's perspective into the software architecture, it can be said that software architecture gives the direction to take steps and do the tasks involved in each such user's speciality area and interest e.g. the stakeholders of software systems, the software developer, the software system operational support group, the software maintenance specialists, the deployer, the tester and also the business end user[citation needed]. In this sense software architecture is really the amalgamation of the multiple perspectives a system always embodies. The fact that those several different perspectives can be put together into a software architecture stands as the vindication of the need and justification of creation of software architecture before the software development in a project attains maturity.


The origin of software architecture as a concept was first identified in the research work of Edsger Dijkstra in 1968 and David Parnas in the early 1970s. These scientists emphasized that the structure of a software system matters and getting the structure right is critical. The study of the field increased in popularity since the early 1990s with research work concentrating on architectural styles (patterns), architecture description languages, architecture documentation, and formal methods[6].

Research institutions have played a prominent role in furthering software architecture as a discipline. Mary Shaw and David Garlan of Carnegie Mellon wrote a book titled Software Architecture: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline in 1996, which brought forward the concepts in Software Architecture, such as components, connectors, styles and so on. The University of California, Irvine's Institute for Software Research's efforts in software architecture research is directed primarily in architectural styles, architecture description languages, and dynamic architectures.

The IEEE 1471: ANSI/IEEE 1471-2000: Recommended Practice for Architecture Description of Software-Intensive Systems is the first formal standard in the area of software architecture, and was adopted in 2007 by ISO as ISO/IEC 42010:2007.

Software architecture topics

Architecture description languages

Architecture description languages (ADLs) are used to describe a Software Architecture. Several different ADLs have been developed by different organizations, including AADL (SAE standard), Wright (developed by Carnegie Mellon), Acme (developed by Carnegie Mellon), xADL (developed by UCI), Darwin (developed by Imperial College London), DAOP-ADL (developed by University of Málaga), ByADL (Build Your ADL) developed by University of L'Aquila. Common elements of an ADL are component, connector and configuration.


Software architecture is commonly organized in views[7], which are analogous to the different types of blueprints made in building architecture. Within the ontology established by ANSI/IEEE 1471-2000, views are instances of viewpoints, where a viewpoint exists to describe the architecture in question from the perspective of a given set of stakeholders and their concerns.

Some possible views (actually, viewpoints in the 1471 ontology) are:

  • Functional/logic view
  • Code/module view
  • Development/structural view
  • Concurrency/process/thread view
  • Physical/deployment view
  • User action/feedback view
  • Data view

Several languages for describing software architectures have been devised, but no consensus has yet been reached on which symbol-set and view-system should be adopted. The UML was established as a standard "to model systems (and not just software)," and thus applies to views about software architecture.

Architecture frameworks

Frameworks related to the domain of software architecture are:

Other architectures such as the Zachman Framework, DODAF, and TOGAF relate to the field of Enterprise architecture.

The distinction from detailed design

Software architecture is the plan for fulfilling non-functional requirements, while software design is the plan for fulfilling functional requirements. Each architectural decision should be traceable to a non-functional requirement.

Software architecture, also described as strategic design, is an activity concerned with global design constraints, such as programming paradigms, architectural styles, component-based software engineering standards, design principles, and law-governed regularities. Detailed design, also described as tactical design, is an activity concerned with local design constraints, such as design patterns, architectural patterns, programming idioms, and refactorings. According to the Intension/Locality Hypothesis[8], the distinction between strategic and tactical design is defined by the Locality Criterion[8], according to which a statement about software design is non-local if and only if a program that satisfies it can be expanded into a program which does not. For example, the Client-Server style is architectural (strategic) because a program that is built by this principle can be expanded into a program which is not client server; for example, by adding peer-to-peer nodes. Or more simply, it is the distinction of the general from the specific.

Architecture is design but not all design is architectural. In practice, the architect is the one who draws the line between software architecture (architectural design) and detailed design (non-architectural design). There aren't rules or guidelines that fit all cases.

Examples of Architectural Styles / Patterns

There are many common ways of designing computer software modules and their communications, among them:

See also


  1. ^ Bass, Len; Paul Clements, Rick Kazman (2003). Software Architecture In Practice, Second Edition. Boston: Addison-Wesley. pp. 21–24. ISBN 0-321-15495-9. 
  2. ^ University of Waterloo (2006). "A Very Brief History of Computer Science". Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  3. ^ IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering (2006). "Introduction to the Special Issue on Software Architecture". Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  4. ^ SEI (2006). "How do you define Software Architecture?". Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  5. ^ a b (2006). "Intro to Software Quality Attributes". Retrieved 2006-09-23. 
  6. ^ Garlan & Shaw (1994). "An Introduction to Software Architecture". Retrieved 2006-09-25. 
  7. ^ Clements, Paul; Felix Bachmann, Len Bass, David Garlan, James Ivers, Reed Little, Robert Nord, Judith Stafford (2003). Documenting Software Architectures: Views and Beyond. Boston: Addison-Wesley. pp. 13–15. ISBN 0-201-70372-6. 
  8. ^ a b Amnon H. Eden, Rick Kazman (2003). "Architecture Design Implementation". 

Further reading

External links

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