By Jarosław Porwoł, Lead Software Engineer at Future Processing
Selecting the best software architecture for your organisation can be a challenge. Thorough planning needs to take place when choosing the right architecture, plus a number of factors need to be considered to ensure the project will be a long-term success. This includes cost, time to market, the number of users, and time allowed for system unavailability. Many companies that have developed a system without any architecture pattern in place, can often find themselves in difficulty with multiple issues across the whole software network.
The choice of software architecture will depend on the business in question, with a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration. These architectural patterns are vital as they are examples of the proven solutions that have been built and tested in software design, and can be applied to other businesses to drive success. The first step in choosing the right software architecture involves understanding the different patterns available, their benefits and types of applications that they are best suited to.
Introducing software architecture patterns
- Layered Architecture
One of the most popular models deployed is layered architecture. With interconnected layers, software modules can be evolved and developed separately around the database for improved performance and flexibility. The code is arranged to enable the data to enter the top layer and works its way down each layer until it reaches the bottom, which is usually a database. Along the way, each layer has a specific task such as checking for data consistency or reformatting the values.
The advantage of layered architecture is the separation of concerns, which means that each layer can focus solely on its role. This ensures that the software is maintainable, testable, easy to assign and it’s quick to update or enhance the layers separately. What’s more, this architecture will have isolated layers that aren’t affected by certain changes in other layers, allowing for easier refactoring. Layered architecture is ideal for new applications that need to be built quickly or mirror traditional IT departments and processes, as well as for applications requiring strict maintainability and testability standards.
- Event-driven architecture
Alternatively, event-driven architecture helps build a central unit that accepts all of the data before assigning it into separate modules that handle different types. This process will generate an “event” and it is delegated to the code assigned to that type. With this architecture, the browser orchestrates all of the input and ensures that only the right code sees the correct events, contrasting the layered architecture where all data will pass through all layers.
Not only will event-driven architecture improve response time of an application, it is also easily adaptable to complex environments with real-time updates, leading to better business outcomes. In addition, companies can simply scale or extend the architecture when new event types appear. Typically, event-driven architecture is best suited for asynchronous systems with asynchronous data flow, user interfaces or applications where individual data blocks interact with only a few of many modules.
- Space-based architecture
In many organisations, applications are built around a database and they function successfully as long as the database is able to keep up with the load. But as usage peaks and the database is unable to keep up with the constant challenge of the transactions, the application will ultimately fail. Space-based architecture is designed to help businesses avoid functional collapse under high traffic by splitting the process and storage between multiple servers.
In this case, the data is spread across the architecture making jobs much faster with simplified tasks. This software architecture is perfect for high-volume data, low-value data that can be lost occasionally without drastic consequences or social networks. It’s important for organisations to consider that with space-based architecture generating enough load to fully test the system can be challenging, but the individual nodes can be tested individually.
- Microservices architecture
Microservices architecture is a distinctive method of developing software systems that focuses on building single-function modules with well-defined interfaces and operations. This type of architecture has grown in popularity in recent years, as businesses look to become more agile and move towards adopting DevOps. For organisations, microservices eliminate the risk of vendor lock-in and provide the flexibility to try out new technology stacks. Ideal for smaller and faster deployments, this architecture creates opportunities to scale applications to create cost savings.
Driving long term benefits
Once the business has established an understanding of the different software architectures available, they need to clarify why it’s important to choose the right pattern. This can be answered from two key perspectives: the engineer and the client. Today, most engineers are familiar with common architectural patterns and will be able to help navigate the project structure, getting up to speed quickly with new features without any challenges. Furthermore, as new features are added to the architecture, they need to be able to easily identify which areas need to be modified and work together to make any amendments.
However, for clients, they need to be able to make sure that the engineering team that they have deployed are able to build their applications with their best interests in mind. Software architecture patterns allow for higher levels of quality to be achieved while still maintaining efficiency. Additionally, when a project is launched and new features are required, the client can be sure that this process will be as seamless as possible, as well-architected software can be modified much easier than software with poor architecture.
No one-size-fits-all approach
Selecting the right software architecture for the business is crucial for the long term success of the application. The architecture defines the model of the software, how it will function and defines the problems that the developers might encounter when it comes to implementation. Ultimately, it makes it much easier to make decisions and manage change, as well as better estimating the time and cost of the project. Whilst there is no-one-size-fits-all approach to software architecture, organisations can consider the strengths, weaknesses and successful use-cases, before making the decision that is best suited to them.