How to Choose the Best Software Architecture Patterns?

Software Development
Software Architecture Patterns

How to Choose the Best Software Architecture Patterns?

Flaws in any software have a great impact on the business of an organization. The main reason for any software failure can be the selection of wrong software architecture patterns. But if you have prior knowledge of the architecture patterns, you can guide the designers and developers in designing the components and the way these components react. This will help in analyzing the risks beforehand, avoiding any adverse impact on the business. 

Choosing the most popular or the trending technologies in the market doesn’t always mean that it would miraculously deliver the best results.  However, if you select the one that fits your software requirements, you’re more likely to succeed in addressing and resolving your existing and recurring issues.

It is often seen that without a formal architecture in place, we start the process of application development. And, in the absence of a clear architecture pattern, our development has to resort to traditional patterns. Eventually, we end up with the code that lacks clear roles, responsibilities, and relationships with one another. 

For instance, an application collecting information about the user would not require a complex architecture. If chosen, it would turn out to be a disaster. This would be like developing a fighter jet just to visit the grocery store located a few footsteps away from your house.

Let’s explore why software architecture patterns are important. 

What is the importance of software architecture patterns?

Software architecture patterns hold a lot of importance as they can be used to solve various problems within different domains. Here are a few examples to illustrate how these architecture patterns are used to solve common problems:

  • Complex user requests can be easily segmented into smaller chunks and distributed across multiple servers to get work done quickly, instead of depending on a single server.
  •  Simplification of the complex testing protocols to make it easy for developers to test various segments of the software rather than testing the whole thing at once.

Here are some reasons why software architecture patterns are so important for any software application:

Defining the Basic Characteristics of an Application:

It has been observed that architecture patterns help in defining the basic characteristics and behaviors of an application. For instance, some architecture patterns can be naturally used for highly scalable applications, whereas others can be used for highly agile applications. For choosing the architecture patterns that can meet your business objectives and needs, it is important to know the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of each architecture. 

Maintaining quality and efficiency:

When an organization chooses to build an application, they need to ensure that the chosen engineering team has their interests in mind – both in terms of quality and efficiency. Any application that you build might face quality issues. The selection of software architecture patterns, according to your software type, can help you minimize the quality issues while simultaneously maintaining efficiency. 

Provide Agility:

Software architecture patterns even provide agility to the application. Once the application is released, it might require to add some features in the future. As it is easier to modify a well-architected pattern than the software with poor architecture, using a well-architected software gives assurance that the process will be as painless as possible.

Problem Solving:

Software Architecture Patterns help software engineers capture a well-proven experience in software development and promote design practices that are good from every perspective. Furthermore, every pattern deals with a specific, recurring problem either in the design or the implementation of a software system. 

Enhancing Productivity:

When a company hires a new developer for a project, no matter how well they write a program, it takes them months to understand things before being productive. One of the solutions is the standardization of programming languages, which helps to a certain extent. Standard libraries, on the other hand, can be another way to tackle this challenge. Also, software patterns seem important when dealing with this problem. If the engineers know about the architecture patterns beforehand, it becomes easy to understand and grasp what is going on in the project.  

Software Architecture Patterns vs Design Patterns

Most people get confused between architecture patterns and design patterns. For initial understanding, let us suppose you are building a house. You will need a proper plan before the actual construction starts. After construction, you cannot start to live in a house that does not have basic amenities like a bed, a kitchen, and other facilities. For that purpose, you will need to have a basic interior so that the brick mortar building becomes a place worth living. In this analogy, how your house should look represents architectural patterns, whereas the interior design of the house represents the design patterns. 

In a software system, architecture is considered when you have to deal with business logic, database logic, UI, etc, whereas design patterns are used while implementing business logic or database logic.

Software Architecture Patterns vs Design Patterns

Different types of Software Architecture Patterns

Before starting a major software development, it is better to choose a suitable architecture pattern that offers desired functionality and quality attributes. 

Let’s discuss a few popular architectural patterns that have helped a lot of software businesses to scale up their businesses:

 

1.Layered Architecture Pattern:

Description: 

You’ve probably already heard of multi-layered, aka tiered architecture, or n-tier architecture. This architecture pattern has gained popularity among designers and software architects alike, for it has several commonalities with the conventional arrangements of IT communications in many startups and established enterprises.

Oftentimes, a layered architecture is classified into four distinct layers: presentation, business, persistence, and database; however, the pattern is not confined to the specified layers.

Let’s say you’re building a large application. In this case, you’d find yourself employing all the four layers or more to your software architecture pattern. On the flip side, small businesses may combine the business and the persistence layers into a single unit, especially when the latter is engaged as an integral part of the business layer components.

What makes this pattern stand out is that each layer plays a distinct role within your application and is marked as closed, which means a request must pass through the layer right below it to go to the next layer.

Another one of its concepts – layers of isolation – enables you to modify components within one layer without really affecting the other layers.

To simplify this process, let’s take an example of an eCommerce web application. The business logic required to process a shopping cart activity such as calculation of the cart is directly fetched from the application tier to the presentation tier. Here the application tier acts as an integration layer to establish seamless communication between the data and presentation layers. Additionally, the last tier is the data tier used to maintain data independently without the intervention of the application server and the business logic.

Usage:

  • Applications that are needed to be built quickly
  • Enterprise applications that require to adopt traditional IT departments and process
  • Those teams which have inexperienced developers who are yet not able to understand other architectures   
  • Those applications which require strict standards of maintainability and testability

Shortcomings:

  • If a source code are unorganized and modules doesn’t have clear roles, it can turn into a big disaster
  • Sometimes the programmers skip previous layers to create tight coupling and that leads to production of logical mess full of complex interdependencies
  • Small modifications can require a complete redeployment of the application

Diagram:

Layered Architecture Pattern

2. Event-driven Architecture

Description:

If you are looking for an architecture pattern that is agile and highly performant, then you should opt for an event-driven architecture pattern. It is made up of highly decoupled, single-purpose event processing components that asynchronously receive and process events. 

This pattern orchestrates the behavior around the production, detection, and consumption of all the events along with the responses they evoke. So whether it’s a small application or large, this highly adaptable architecture is your go-to. 

Event-driven pattern consists of two topologies – mediator and broker. Mediator is used when multiple steps are needed to be orchestrated within an event through a central mediator. And, Broker is used when the events are required to be chained together without the use of a central mediator. 

Well, a good example that uses event-driven architecture is an e-commerce site. The event-driven architecture enables the eCommerce website to react to a variety of sources at the time of high demand. Simultaneously, it avoids any crash of the application or any over-provisioning of resources. 

Usage:

  • For the applications in which individual data blocks interact with only a few modules 
  • Helps with user interfaces

Shortcomings:

  •  Testing individual modules can only be done if they are independent, otherwise they need to be tested in  a fully functional system. 
  • When several modules are handling the same events, error handling becomes difficult to structure
  • Development of system-wide data structure for events can become really difficult if the events have different needs
  • Since the modules are decoupled and independent, maintaining a transaction based mechanism for consistency becomes difficult.

Diagram:

Event-Driven Architecture Pattern

3. Microkernel Architecture

Description:

This architecture pattern consists of two types of components – core system and plug-in modules – where the core system comprises minimal functionality that is required to make the system operational. 

If we take a business application’s perspective, the core system can be defined as general business logic without the custom code for special cases, special rules, or complex conditional processes.

The other component, the plug-in modules, is a set of independent components comprising specialized processing, additional features, and custom code. These are meant to enhance the core system in order to produce additional business capabilities. 

For your understanding, we can take an example of a typical task scheduler. In this application, the microkernel could contain all the logic for scheduling and triggering tasks, while the plug-ins contain specific tasks. As long as the plug-ins adhere to a predefined API, the microkernel can trigger them without needing to know the implementation details.

Another example of a microkernel architecture pattern is a workflow. It contains concepts like the order of the different steps, evaluating the results of steps, deciding what the next step is, etc. The specific implementation of these steps is less important to the core code of the workflow.

Usage:

  • For the applications that have a clear segmentation between the basic routines and higher-order rules
  • The applications that have a fixed set of core routines and dynamic set of rule that needs frequent updates

Shortcomings:

  • The plugins must have good handshaking code so that microkernel is aware of the plugin installation and is ready to work
  • Changing a microkernel is very difficult or even impossible if there are a number of plugins dependent on it. The only solution is to make changes in the plugins as well.
  • Though it is difficult to choose the right granularity for the kernel function in advance, it is even more difficult to change it in the later stage.

Diagram:

Microkernel Architecture Pattern

4. Microservices Architecture Pattern

Description

You would be glad to learn about microservices architecture patterns as it is a viable alternative to monolithic applications and service-oriented architectures. The components of the microservice architecture are deployed as separate units. This allows them to be deployed easily using an effective and streamlined delivery pipeline, enhanced scalability, and a high degree of application and component decoupling within the application. 

Since the components are fully decoupled from one another, they are accessed through some sort of remote access protocol. Also, these components can be separately developed, deployed, and tested without interdependency on any other service component. 

Let us give you an insight by Adrian Cockcroft, the Director of Web Engineering and then Cloud Architect of Netflix. 

“The video streaming app is one of the early adopters of the Microservice Architecture Pattern. Netflix went from a traditional development model with 100 engineers producing a monolithic DVD-rental application to a microservice architecture. This architecture allowed them to work in small teams responsible for the end-to-end development of hundreds of microservices. These microservices work together to stream digital entertainment to millions of Netflix customers every day.”  

Usage:

  • Businesses and web applications that require rapid development
  • Websites with small components, data centers with well-defined boundaries, and where the teams are spread across the globe. 

Shortcoming:

  • Designing the right level of granularity for a service component is always a challenge.
  • All the applications don’t include tasks that can be split into independent units
  • Tasks that are spread between different microservices can have an adverse effect on performance.

Diagram:

Microservices Architecture Pattern

5. Space-Based Architecture

Description:

The concept of tuple space – the idea of distributed shared memory is the basis of the name of this architecture. It comprises two primary components – processing unit and virtualized middleware. 

Let us explore it in detail. The processing unit component contains portions of application components including web-based components and backend business logic. Well, smaller web applications could be deployed in a single processing unit. On the other hand, larger applications could split the application functionality into multiple processing units. 

Furthermore, the virtualized-middleware component contains elements that control various aspects of data synchronization and request handling. They can be custom written or can be purchased as third party products. 

One of the advantages of this pattern is that there is no central database. This removes that bottleneck, providing near-infinite scalability within the application. For your knowledge, the applications that receive requests from the browser & perform some sort of action fits into this pattern category.

Let us explain to you with the help of an example – a bidding auction site. The site receives bids from the internet users through a browser request. On receiving the request the site records that bid with a timestamp, updates the information of the latest bid and sends the information back to the browser. 

Usage:

  • For the applications and software systems that work under heavy load of users
  • For the applications that need to address and solve scalability and concurrency issues.

Shortcoming:

  • It is difficult to develop the skills to cache the data for speed without disturbing multiple copies. 

Diagram:

Space-Based Architecture Pattern

Comparative Analysis of different software architecture patterns

So far, we have read about the different types of architecture patterns. Now, which architecture would you choose for your software type?

For instance, if your primary goal is scalability, you can look at the below chart to determine which type of architecture is the best choice. Also, you can get to know the risk areas associated with a particular architecture pattern. Let’s have a glance at the table below.

Comparative Analysis of Software Architecture Patterns

Is it necessary to hire a Software Architect? How can Simform help you?

A lot of people, even after reading the above post, would be in a dilemma which architecture pattern would be good for their application type. Some might be thinking to consult a software architect to fulfill this very purpose or hiring an architect with a team of engineers.

Well, in our view, an “Architect” must be a senior programmer. The very thought to have an architect who doesn’t program and a handful of programmers who don’t architect is primitive indeed. Also, modern technologies require the development team to own the architecture collectively. This means that we need to work on a solution-based vision, backlog, and long term goals of the product and the company. 

Working with lead engineers would help in discovering the gaps in the team composition, ensuring the effective training of the team. Additionally, it facilitates the adoption of new skills and further educates the clients on the potentialities. 

We, at Simform, have a team of engineers who have excelled in adopting the best architectural approaches for software projects. We have consulted businesses to choose the right architecture for their software applications. This has helped them analyze their potential and take decisions to lead them to success.  

Furthermore, the selection of architecture patterns depends on the type of application that you want to build. If you have any queries related to software architecture patterns, we are ready to help you out. Share your thoughts with us. 

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Hiren Dhaduk

Hiren is VP of Technology at Simform with an extensive experience in helping enterprises and startups streamline their business performance through data-driven innovation.

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