5 Things Developers Should Know about Software Architecture

Done right, software architecture is a real productivity booster. This article reflects why software architecture is so important and which challenges it solves.

“Software architects have to take responsibility for their decisions as they have much more influential power in software projects than most people in organisations.” – Richard Monson-Haefel, software developer and author of Enterprise JavaBeans on Software Architecture.

Why do you Need Software Architecture?

The reason behind calling software architecture so is that it is so similar to regular architecture. The difference is that software architecture design not only needs to be built according to high-quality standards to stay stable and long-lasting. It also needs to be able to scale the whole software product when environments change. A software architect’s key role is to find the right balance between the business side and technical requirements for the project. For sure, this is challenging work.

My experience working in a bespoke software development company shows me that software development is a process. The key is the combination of many multifaceted knowledge-laden entities that come together to create a magnificent innovative product that is valuable. The real power of a software architect is to think in perspective despite what an unpredictable terrain technical domains are.

What Challenges Does Software Architecture Solve?

In the digital era, especially in the IT industry, changes take place at such high speed that it can sometimes be hard to catch up. The good news is that the chances are high that you are also a keen learner if you are a software developer, making the task easier. Still, is your idea of what contributions come from software architecture is still vague?

The crucial thing to know is that software architects see the bigger purpose of the whole project in three main dimensions.

  1. its purpose (why)
  2. its process (how)
  3. and the product itself (what)

Aspects that constantly evolve emerge from technical factors such as frameworks, design patterns, dependent libraries, implementation of programming languages etc. The database schemas then need to be carefully selected as it will represent the backbone structure. This applies to all its cohesive subcomponents like logical data view and physical storage.

5 Things a Software Developer Needs to Know About Architecture

1. Good Software Architecture Enables Flexibility

There are numerous software architecture patterns that all come with certain advantages and disadvantages. The best way to make an informed decision about your next project would be to familiarise yourself with them and understand each unique value. Probably the best quality a high-quality software architecture design needs to have is flexibility and agility. When a module does not serve its purpose, a best practice is to change it as quick as possible. This saves you both your precious time and financial resources.

Among the most prominent software architecture types and some notable example application based on them are as follows:

  • the N-tier/Multi-tier (e.g. Jakarta EE, Drupal OS, Express for Node.js)
  • Event-driven/EDA (Amazon AWS, Java Swing, Kafka)
  • Microkernel (Eclipse, KeyKOS, Redox)
  • Space-based/SBA following REST, SOA and EDA standards and
  • Microservices architecture (e.g. Netflix, Spring Framework, Kubernetes).

As a software developer, you should know which one of these are more flexible and enable more scalability than the others. For example web servers are easier to scale than databases.

2. It Isn’t About Doing Too Much Planning in Advance

Traditionally, software developers associate architecture with a detailed action plan, ready to be executed. In the past, the Waterfall model required that all architectural elements are taken into account before developers can start coding. Since 2001 when the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” was published, the Waterfall model approach slowly became outdated and obsolete. Nowadays, many software development companies decide to follow Agile principles. The goal is to create products with a minimal up-front design that can evolve fast and adequately respond to project changes.

It is not about planning many steps in advance and striving to achieve perfection. Modern software developers need to be flexible and adaptable to changes. Grady Book, famous for developing the UML (Universal Modeling Language) states that “architecture represents the significant decisions, where significance is measured by the cost of change”.

Following this thought, decision-makers and dev teams should consider which decisions will be more expensive later on. In other words, the main focus needs to be on those significant decisions that are going to be fundamental for the project. For example choice of technology and structure and not on small details that can later be modified and elaborated.

3. Software Architecture Is Not Something to Neglect

Although I mentioned that not every aspect of the software architecture design needs to be initially considered, it is still crucial to take care of before writing your code. Programming will be a lot easier if you have a clear understanding of the basic pattern your project will implement. Architecture serves as a starting point. Furthermore by giving the whole a technical frame, it also gives you a direction to follow.

If you neglect the design and just start coding right away, you risk your project’s internal codebase consistency. Leading to chaos or a spaghetti code. On the other hand, this will cause low code quality, less scalability, and security. This makes your source code very difficult to maintain. To avoid such a frustrating situation, make sure you establish a basic project architecture. That will allow you to have a technical structure and stability to grow upon.

4. If Done Right, it will Boosts Productivity

Another essential benefit that dev teams gain from quality architecture is that it can boost their productivity. Everyone may have a different version of what productivity should look like. Nevertheless, we have to agree that when we have put a lot of effort into a code, it is nice to see that it works flawlessly. And your team can show measurable results.

Though sometimes the architecture itself is causing productivity decline simply because of its complexity. Take web applications development as an example of how architecture can affect productivity. ReactJS and Redux allow implementing complex new functionalities and focus on small code components at a time. Thus, the overall project development process can be accelerated. This is because every developer understands smaller features and is confident about working on them.

5. It Is the Base of Good Software Development

As a software developer, you know that a smooth development process depends on established methodologies and frameworks. The architecture design or a starting version of it can be a communication basis between clients and developers. During the negotiation phase, both sides need to align their project vision before building the software solution, and that is where software architecture comes into play.

A clear architecture can play a vital role in understanding the whole system upfront. By laying the project foundation, architecture also contributes to the decision making process. It clarifies the project outline, maintenance, scalability and overall growth and technical sustainability plan. Finally, good software architectural model that has already proven itself successful can be transferred into another project with similar requirements and functionality.

By making the design reusable, model transferability can save companies lots of expenses in the long run.

Image Source: Pixabay, Pixabay License

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