What is Software Architecture? Tools, Design & Examples

Software architecture is the internal organisation of a system’s design. If you are looking to pursue a career in the software industry, it is crucial to have a good working knowledge of all working parts. This blog will take you through the design components, tools, and examples to clarify the basics. 

What is Software Architecture?

The architecture of a system relates to how the elements are wired, structured into relationships, and interact with one another. Architectural decisions have to be made in consonance with business strategy, quality attributes, design, human dynamics, and the IT environment of the organisation. This typically involves high-level project tasks to take place before time, energy, and money is invested in a project. 

In other words, software architecture is the blueprint that simplifies the coordination and management of a system and establishes rules of communication. It serves as a structured solution that takes care of the foundational characteristics, such as:

  • Operational and technical requirements;
  • Performance and security of the system.

For the overall success of the software product, the following decisions or steps need to be taken with respect to architecture: 

  • Selection of structural elements and interfaces.
  • Behaviour and collaboration between the chosen elements. 
  • Composition of the structural elements and interactions in a larger sub-system.
  • Assessment of alignment between the architecture and business goals.
  • Evaluation of whether the architectural style guides organisational performance. 

A poor software architecture contributes to cruft, the superfluous and dysfunctional code that complicates a developer’s understanding of the software. It is much harder to modify products and deliver new features in such scenarios. 

Software Architecture Design

It refers to the ‘design plan’ that describes how the different system components fit together to make the software product functional and effective. It is beneficial for the following purposes:

  • To negotiate system requirements with stakeholders.
  • To set expectations with customers, marketing teams, and management professionals.
  • To act as a layout or schematic representation during the development process.
  • To guide implementation tasks (detailed design, coding, testing, integration, etc.)

Notably, software architecture defines the fundamental properties of the entire system; however, software design details how the individual modules or components should be built by developers. 

Importance of Software Architecture and Design

Good software architecture is reliable, user-friendly, and flexible. It allows the application to evolve with the end-users, who easily adapt to new features. It is robust and scalable, i.e. it can support a large number of users. It also allows development teams to conveniently maintain data and run tests on the software.

The advantages generally translate into:

  • Better communication between clients, users, management, and so on.
  • Quick decision-making as developers advance in the implementation process.
  • Transferability to other software solutions, owing to well-planned requirements and masterfully executed codes. 

Design Tools and Examples

To implement and roll out a product without major problems, you need to be well-versed with some software architecture design tools. Without the proper paraphernalia, your software stands the chance of facing performance bugs that can impede the development cycle later. Moreover, the right tools ensure that you don’t encounter security issues and other risks. 

That said, it may not always be possible to have everything figured out before deployment. Your design tools, therefore, have the ability to detect and correct flaws during the creation stages. This allows you to analyse the fundamental design blocks and assess the risks of attacks, potential threats, gaps, and weaknesses in the system. 

The unnoticed faults in the software architecture emerge sooner or later, sometimes proving fatal. Experienced software architects and developers know that application decay can hurt a company’s bottom lines and reputations. So, it is best to have some techniques handy to deal with the challenges throughout the design process. 

CAST is an excellent example of a software intelligence platform that can not only identify but also fix flaws, both at the start and as you go along. Its structural analysis engine, known as the Application Intelligence Platform, evaluates how different components interact and then provides insights through a visual representation. This knowledge is immensely useful for developers and team members looking to better support the development of an application. The design tools are explained in more detail below. 

  • Interactive exploration: It explores the AIP Knowledgebase and the information collected during analysis to graphically display the application’s structure to end-users.
  • Change simulation: It utilises analytical capabilities to stimulate the impact of modifications made to an object.
  • Automated documentation: It contains the HTML report feature for creating technical documentation on software projects. 
  • Alignment: This tool is best for highlighting database models and ensuring adherence between database and back-end layers. 
  • Search: These features let you search any component, including its position on a current graphical view, transaction, etc. 
  • View: It shows you the source code and details of the application components.
  • Extraction: You can access high-level software architectures, along with the application technologies, frameworks, and databases. 

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What Software Architects Do?

Now that we are familiar with the groundwork, let us explain software architecture design in action. 

Software architects are hired by top IT companies to transform the way they deliver products to their clients. From Fortune 500 companies to tech startups and independent consultancy firms, enterprises of all sizes are looking for specialists who can create seamless software experiences for their customers. Let us have a look at some standard deliverables:

  • Create a lucid, comprehensive, and achievable set of functional goals.
  • Develop the system’s functional description, including at least two layers of decomposition.
  • Present a concept for the system to be developed.
  • Produce a design plan in the form of a system, with minimum two layers of decomposition. 
  • Construct a notion of the operator attributes, timing, implementation, and operational aspects.
  • Make a document or process to ensure that the functional decomposition is followed and that the interfaces are controlled. 

In the present-day job market in India, a large number of job roles in software architecture do not get filled due to the lack of skills among fresh Computer Science and Engineering graduates. For this reason, companies are ready to pay high salaries to professionals who demonstrate the right skills. According to Payscale, the average base salary for software architects in India is a whopping ₹21,82,327.

To work as a software architect, you are expected to have expertise in a variety of areas. Here’s a comprehensive look at the skill requirements:

Design expertise

  • Know-how of different methods and approaches, such as object-oriented design, event-driven design, etc.
  • Leadership acumen to coordinate development efforts with cross-functional teams and maintain design integrity.
  • Ability to review design proposals and tradeoffs and choose among alternatives.

Domain expertise

  • Vision for developing a plan for software evolution.
  • Resourcefulness in supporting the required investigation process and maintaining the completeness and consistency of efforts. 
  • Skills to coordinate the definition of the system’s domain model. 

Technology expertise

  • Knowledge of technologies used in the implementation of the system.
  • Critical thinking skills for selecting the right programming languages, frameworks, databases, platforms, etc.

Methodical expertise

Soft skills and experience

  • Communication skills to reinforce trust within the team and facilitate technical work among members from different backgrounds.
  • Specialisation in a particular software development field with relevant work experience.
  • The tact and managerial talent to control external forces from distracting development teams and disrupting the workflows.

So, software architect jobs encompass both the technical and design sides of a project. You not only get to practice coding but also apply your creativity and hone your leadership skills. Employers usually prefer people who hold proven experience in computer languages like Java and PHP. Developing these skillsets would allow you to move ahead with confidence in your software development journey. 

Learn Software Architecture and Design

You can enrol in leading online programmes like the Master of Science in Computer Science by Liverpool John Moores University and upGrad. The course offers industry-oriented training in languages like Java and Python, preparing you for a diverse range of software development roles. You can choose to specialise in emerging career fields like full-stack development, blockchain, Big Data, DevOps, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. The cutting-edge curriculum, projects, and mentor support further prepare you for high-paying jobs, including:

  • Software engineer;
  • Full-stack developer;
  • Blockchain developer;
  • DevOps engineer;
  • Cloud architect;
  • Cybersecurity engineer;
  • Data engineer.

A good grasp over conceptual and practical aspects of software architecture design is necessary for carrying out the responsibilities of these positions. We hope that this blog helped you understand the nuts and bolts and guided you in taking the next steps of your professional life! 

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