Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's the point of Software Architecture?

At the SPA 2008 conference, I attended a session entitled 'Does Architecture Help?' in which Eric Nelson from Microsoft identified 9 observations on architecture that he has encountered from his work with Independent Software vendors (ISVs). He noted that there was no correlation to project success if there isn't an architecture and that there are many different ways (read architecture) of solving the same problem. Although there isn't a perfect architecture, there are clearly examples of bad architectures, which are often demonstrated by symptons such as change being very expensive, that have delivered a great service possibly through the massive advances in hardware technology being 'the get out of jail card'.

The rise of agile developments has clearly impacted the importance of architecture with perhaps the removal of the formality of this activity. Clearly the availability of technology can have significant impacts on software architecture. While there is always the tempatition to try and accomodate the latest technology in your next project, I think this is a risky strategy as architectures normally need to be based on firm foundations (there are always exceptions). With a good architecture (not a perfect one!), it is possible to keep technology choice separate from the architecture. In my experience of Model Driven Architectures (MDA), it is possible to separate the technology from the architecture through the use of separare models:
  • Platform Independent Models (PIM) which is independent of a the technical choice

  • Platform Specific Model (PSM) in which the technical choice is made
The slides for the session are available from Eric's blog.

I discovered something when I downloaded the slides, a new file extension .PPTX. My computer didn't recognise the extension (I only had Microsoft Powerpoint Viewer 2003 installed). A hunt around Microsoft's website revealed a free download for Microsoft Powerpoint Viewer 2007 which adds the capabilty to view .PPTX files, which I discovered are Powerpoint files stored in Microsoft's new XML file format.

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