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From Good to Great

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6 Feb 2015CPOL5 min read
This is my own view about Software Architecture and the way I see it as the Blueprint for Great Software development, turning the good ones into great.

Introduction

Too many times I have seen brash young developers put aside the thoughts of having a good architecture in lieu of quick and fast software development. So, I would like to express what is Software Architecture and how it can turn a good software into a great and maintanable one.

What is Architecture Actually?

I have gone through some definitions but the following matches my take on Architecture:
The software architecture of a system is the set of structures needed to reason about the system, which comprise software elements, relations among them, and properties of both.

(source:http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1994790)

So, what is necessary to become a successful Architect?

I believe the skill first and fore-most a Software Architect should have is

Good understanding of the business problem domain, followed by

a) General strategies and tactics

b) Fundamentals of abstraction and modeling both business and technical concepts
 
c) How to assess the trade-offs involved when recommending an approach
 
And now his/her duties - nicely illustrated by the image that follows:

 

And Now something 

CRUCIAL : Software Architects must also be adept at the Social Skills -> Soft Skills
(source:http://www.bredemeyer.com/Architect/RoleOfTheArchitect.htm)

Soft Skills? Seriously?

Yes, and that includes 

1) Communication - Frequently communicate between the management and the team is to be guided.

2) Negotiation – Good understanding about what is possible and what is not given the context

3) PERSUASION to influence,

4) Need to know how to communicate what you are thinking so everyone understands them.


Now the million dollar question 

WHY ARCHITECTURE ?

I would be short and succinct with this, and this is solely based on my experience:

i)   Integrate New Features Easily

ii)  Maintenance &Sustainability

iii) Team Work Through Modularization

iv)  Pinpoint Potential Problem Areas

v)   The possibility of entertaining Multiple Platforms

 

Prerequisites to great Architecture:

Firsly, Clarity of Intention –  Clear idea in mind what you are about to do.

What that drives you towards is Reflection of  that Intention in Coding, so others can (with a little bit of effort) understand what you have in mind.

And not to say the least THINK BEYOND THE LANGUAGE/TOOL 

 

Now we are ready to get started, but First:

Improve day to day coding habits, let me count them down for you - 

one: Lines and Lines and Lines of Comments – NO!!

two: Meaningful Variable and Class Names, Method and Function Names
        -> Which Makes Sense and IS SUCCINCT and Precise

three: Short Notes as Comments on critical junctures  

four: Tabs, Formatting and Indentation

five: PRACTICE BASE LEVEL ALGORITHMS AND HAVE GOOD GRASP ON DATA STRUCTURES  (BE PATIENT)

What consitutes a good Architecture

Believe it or not - a layerd cake

Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/cc163962.aspx

 

 

The ingredients of the cake (Taking a leaf out of MSDN article mentioned in the above source):

1. Simplicity means you don't do in ten lines what you can do in five!! There is less to go wrong.

2. Readability means what it says: that others can read your code

3. Modularity means your program is built like the universe. Good programs erect large systems from smaller ones, which are built from even smaller building blocks. 

4. Layering means that internally, your program resembles a layer cake. The app sits on the framework sits on the OS sits on the hardware. Modules and layers are defined by APIs, which delineate their boundaries. Thus, design is critical.

5. Design means you take time to plan your program before you build it.  APIS should be codified => Arranged according to a plan or a system

Yes, it appears I copied from the article blindly and put up a compressed version of it here, but what can I do if my experience matches so closely with the points made in the article.

ICING ON THE CAKE

Efficiency & Elegance

The simple yet beautiful looking equation is the theory of General Relativity by the great Albert Einstein. Such a powerful theory yet can be expressed so eloquently. The elegance is the icing that makes the layers of the architecture maintanable and inspiring to look at, even after years.

And whenver there is elegance, chances are high the system is efficient.

As we take care of the basic factors of Software Architecture and design, we have to give some thoughts about the elegance aided by efficiency.

Have I ever used what I said in reality?

Yes, I have. I am involved in the designing of a social media site (lokkhi.io) for the Bangladeshi Community, a community I proudly belong to.  And inorder to address popular user demands, we have tried to follow the cake based approach in developing a core API engine and the outer layers. It is possible to use this site for chatting, video conferencing, file transfer through web and native android app. The IOS based app is also on its way and should hit the market soon.

Not here to brag, but to show a practical example how we achieved it, here is an illustration:

And while we are at it, we try to be very careful about the pitfalls to Software Architecture and Design Patterns, which namely are

a) OVER-DESIGN

b) OVER OPTIMIZATIONS WITHOUT VERIFICATION
 
c) OVER-INHERITENCE & HIERARCHY
 

Conclusion

The point of the article was to stress the fact that no good sustainable development can last without the application of good Software Architecture Design. I am hopeful the possible success of sites such as https://lokkhi.io would be a good testimony behind this in days to come.

History

Article Submitted: 6th Feb, 2015

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Mukit, Ataul
Technical Lead Kotha Technologies
Bangladesh Bangladesh
If you are not in - you are out !
- Chapter 1

Comments and Discussions

 
Questionvery nice Pin
BillW3313-Mar-15 11:23
professionalBillW3313-Mar-15 11:23 
QuestionGreat Starter Article on Architecture... Pin
Kirk 103898219-Feb-15 9:34
MemberKirk 103898219-Feb-15 9:34 

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