Software | March 9, 2023

What is Software Architecture and why do you need it?

Software development without software architecture is like building a house without a blueprint. Before developing a new app or system for your company, it’s important to lay the foundations, create a solid structure, and make sure everyone on the team is on the same page.

In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of software architecture and the best practices you should follow to hit the nail on the head right from the start.

What Is Software Architecture?

Software architecture is —or should be— the initial step of the software development life cycle, and it involves creating a blueprint of the system you want to develop. It defines its fundamental structure and how its components interact and communicate with one another, the environment in which they operate, and the principles guiding the process. 

If done right, the software architecture process can significantly improve the performance of the team, reduce costs, drive decision-making, and prevent regression. Its goal is to make things easier throughout the process by balancing stakeholders’ needs with the capabilities of the team from the get-go.

Types of Software Architecture

So, software architecture is all about sitting down with your team and figuring out how to structure the system you’re about to build. Of course, there are an infinite number of ways to do this, but right now, the majority of teams use one of five types of software architecture patterns:

Layered or n-tier architecture

Layered or n-tier architecture separates app components into layers with specific responsibilities, so it enables easy maintenance and modification over time, making it perfect for new apps or high-maintenance systems.

Event-driven architecture

In an event-driven software architecture, components communicate with each other by sending and receiving events (an action or a change of state), enabling the system to respond quickly to changes. This type of software architecture is often used in systems that require real-time processing, like stock trading platforms and social media apps.

Microkernel architecture

Microkernel architecture structures a system by separating its core functionality (the microkernel) from other components that are less critical. The microkernel provides basic services, while other components are implemented as separate modules. This type of software architecture boosts the system’s stability, security, and scalability and is often used in operating systems.

Microservices architecture

This software architecture pattern structures an app or system as a collection of small, independent services, each responsible for a specific task or feature. A microservices architecture is perfect for complex applications that require high scalability, resilience, and agility.

Space-based architecture

A space-based architecture splits up the processing and storage between multiple servers to avoid functional collapse under high load. This type of architecture is best for systems working with high volumes of data like clicks, streams, and user logs.

Now, the software architecture pattern you choose will depend on the system’s needs, the team’s capabilities, and the stakeholders’ requirements. And it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it will serve as the basis for the entire development process.

Software Architecture Best Practices

Given how critical software architecture is in the development process, it’s important to get it right from the start. Here are some best practices you should keep in mind when venturing into software architecture design:

  1. Choose the right software architecture pattern. Although some teams prefer not to follow a pattern at all, choosing one of the types of software architecture we mentioned above can provide you with some structure and set you on the right path.
  2. Define the scope and stick to it. The team should be on the same page regarding the scope of the project. Expanding it may be tempting, but it can consume essential resources and compromise functional requirements. 
  3. Have a clear understanding of the requirements. Your software architecture relies on the requirements of the system. Understanding each and every one of them will enable you to deliver an end product that satisfies your stakeholders.
  4. Divide your architecture into parts. Breaking down your architecture can help you create a plan that prioritizes functional requirements, user value, and the optimized use of resources.
  5. Use visuals. Incorporating visuals, like diagrams and charts, into your design concept and implementation is an effective way to provide your team with a high-level understanding of your design.
  6. Evolve the design over time. The initial design is merely the first iteration in the architecture development process. It helps you understand the technical challenges and obstacles you may encounter, but it won’t be more than a prototype. Your architecture design will evolve over time, enabling you to refine the details gradually.

Good architecture saves the day

Software architecture is important because it defines the fundamental structure and behavior of a software system. It’s crucial for the team to gather and thoroughly discuss the product’s features and technical requirements, challenging every step and exploring alternative approaches. 

In the end, the right software architecture might define the success of the project.

By Eduardo Cuomo

Engineering Manager at Patagonian. I bring extensive experience in Bash Script, JavaScript and TypeScript. In addition to my professional pursuits, I also enjoy the occasional online gaming session with friends and playing with Arduino during my spare time.

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