Presumably, we all agree that the world today is more software-defined than it has ever been before. As we move deeper into the software-defined economy, the need for good software products, products that are performance-oriented, robust, functional, and maintainable, increases. One of the key enablers of any good software product is the software architecture used to design the product. After all, you need a strong skeleton to construct a strong structure. The case is no different for modern day software products.
Software architecture takes into consideration the parameters that are important to the software. This involves taking into account requirements such as security, performance, functionality, how the software parts communicate with one another, the dependencies, implementation technology guidelines, risks, and the like. In their book, Software Architecture in Practice, Len Bass, Paul Clements, and Rick Kazman say, “the software architecture of a system is the set of structures needed to reason about the system, which comprises software elements, the relations among them, and the properties of both.”
The need for good software architecture
Software architecture is a set of principles and properties of system elements along with their dependencies. It will serve as the basis of communication between project stakeholders, and, most importantly, it defines the software and how it functions. It helps in determining the possible problems that a product might encounter, enables better estimation of the time and project cost, and also defines the path for product maintenance and evolution.
User-friendly, flexible, adaptable, high performance, reliable, and easily maintainable products will have a strong software architecture as its backbone. So what kind of a software architecture do the products of today need?
Built for change
With product evolution being the norm rather than the exception, product developers have to consider a software architecture that enables change. While initially, good software architecture was one that was built to last, the story is changing today. As product updates, upgrades, and pivots become necessary, good software architecture gets defined by its ability to enable product change and its capability to change itself.
Consider Application complexity
Applications today are also becoming more complex and comprise multiple moving parts. Using a monolithic architecture might be tempting considering that it is easier to plan to build, deploy, and test. However, these architectures are limited in size and complexity, cannot enable change easily as the application needs to be redeployed with each update, and are hence more prone to bugs. A monolithic architecture also becomes a possible barrier to new technology adoption as any changes in language or framework will impact the entire application.
Microservices v/s SOA
As applications are getting more complex, a microservices architecture helps in mitigating some key development and maintenance challenges. In this architecture, the application is composed of small, independent processes. The parts communicate with each other leveraging language-agnostic API’s.
Service Oriented Architecture or SOA is apattern of architecture where the application components provide the required services to other application components over a network via an appropriate communications protocol.
While both these architectures seem similar to one another, in microservices the services can operate and be deployed independently of other services. This does not happen with SOA. Microservices thus makes it easier to deploy new service versions and also scale a particular service easily. SOA, on the other hand, can be more cumbersome as it can comprise multiple microservices. The choice of the architecture thus depends on the demands and expected results from the application in development.
The cloud is here to stay. Businesses looking at building software products also have to look at products that are cloud-ready (ready for cloud deployment) or cloud-centric (born on the cloud). Applications running in the cloud have to be more amenable to clustering. As applications become more dependent on continuous integration and continuous deployment for rapid iterations, having a software architecture that enables this becomes critical towards application success, especially with the adoption of development methodologies such as DevOps and Agile. Architectures such as microservices allow the application to scale out a specific microservice easily and, consequently,could help the application scale. Matching technologies, operating systems, frameworks, databases, runtimes, and monitoring tools to each application component also become easier.
A strong software architecture is critical for maintaining the quality as well as longevity of a software product. The architecture has to support the needs of the system in design and has to address communication bottlenecks that occur under larger loads. It must ensure easy scalability, maintainability, integration, and testing of new features. The architecture has to support key quality attributes such as performance, interoperability, modifiability, and the like. These goals are important since they are derived from the business goals in tandem with the goals of the application. The emergence of the web changed everything for software products and it has now become essential to create an architecture that supports the required speed of change the market demands,all while becoming a facilitator of innovation. Does the architecture of your software product pass that test?