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Architecture is as important to software as it is for physical structures. Software architecture is the overall design on how software systems are constructed and interact with users and other systems. The quality of this design will give you confidence that the software will deliver on its objectives once it is completed.

It is the role of a software architect to translate business goals into a workable plan. This plan needs to bring together technologies, people, and resources amidst an extremely dynamic environment. This plan must represent the “big picture” of any software project, plus be able to endure setbacks and changing requirements.

Why Invest In Architecture?
Investing in software architecture can greatly reduce the total risk of undertaking a major software development initiative. If you were to analyze the impact of software flaws based on where within the development lifecycle they originated, then significant disparity would be revealed between programming flaws and architectural flaws.

Programming flaws are verifiable defects that can be found and fixed. The cost to remediate these problems is finite and containable. Examples include, “this calculation is not yielding the correct results” or “clicking this button doesn’t bring up the proper screen.”

Architectural flaws are more subjective and require a major overhaul of the existing code to address. Examples include, “the performance of database access has bogged down once production-level transaction volumes were introduced” or “our communication protocol is vulnerable to hackers” or “if someone submits bad data, then the entire system often goes down.” Once a flaw of this type is identified, there is no guarantee that a re-design can actually address the current shortcomings until it is implemented. This scenario is both common and dangerous. The costs associated with attempting to save a failing development effort can continue to grow uncontrollably. Serious architectural and design oversights routinely lead to projects being cancelled late into their development cycle.

Professional Architecture Services?
True software architecture is not tied to a certain approach, industry, or toolkit. Rather it brings together an optimized plan for you to reach very specialized goals operating in your specific business environment. Boilerplate solutions are completely contrary to the purpose of software architecture. The questions of who, what, and how all have to contribute to the final answer. The engineering expertise can be learned and perfected, but the application of such must be customized.

Several techniques that can aid any development project include:

Component Isolation — creating clear delineation of responsibilities for different modules within the application where knowledge and testing can be encapsulated in manageable subdivisions.

Redundant Design — portions of the architecture can be swapped out for other solutions, transparently leading to a system that is highly resilient to failure and changes in external factors.

Data Pipelining — Identifying where data must pass efficiently through the framework, removing overhead and increasing performance.

At-risk Scenarios?
Some software development scenarios are more sensitive to architectural deficiencies than others. In general, product maturity and team cohesion over an extended period both infer architectural stability, since successful designs are highly evolutionary in nature. Factors that highlight the need for architectural review include:

  • Projects serving as pilots for a wider reaching initiative
  • Technology or platform migration
  • Performance critical applications
  • Reliability critical applications
  • Security critical applications
  • Offshore development

Benefits & ROI Considerations?

  • System future adaptability, extensibility, and robustness
  • Extended production lifetimes
  • Greatly reduced maintenance costs
Note that these benefits can become unachievable in environments where the software architecture is deficient.

Protect the future of your development investment. Creating software is an expensive and risky undertaking. Building on a solid architecture insures that the effort pays you back.