Ben Stopford looks at the implications of mixing toolsets from the stream processing world into real-time business applications: how to effectively handle infinite streams, how to leverage a high throughput, persistent Log and deploy dynamic, fault tolerant, and streaming services. Jeffrey Fredrick discusses how human psychology can work against successful agile adoption. Manuel Fahndrich describes how they tackled one particular resource allocation aspect of Google Cloud Dataflow pipelines, namely, horizontal scaling of worker pools as a function of pipeline input rate.
If you're working in an agile software development team at the moment, take a look around at your environment.
If you look back a few years, structured processes and formal notations provided a reference point for both the software design process and how to communicate the resulting designs. As an industry, we do have the Unified Modelling Language (UML), which is a formal standardised notation for communicating the design of software systems. Abandoning UML is all very well but, in the race for agility, many software development teams have lost the ability to communicate visually too.
Informal boxes and lines sketches can work very well, but there are many pitfalls associated with communicating software designs in this way. Components: components (or services) are typically made up of a number of collaborating classes, all sitting behind a coarse-grained interface. Containers: a container represents something in which components are executed or where data resides.
System: a system is the highest level of abstraction and represents something that delivers value to, for example, end-users. Context diagram: a very high-level diagram showing your system as a box in the centre, surrounded by other boxes representing the users and all of the other systems that the software system interfaces with. Class diagrams: this is an optional level of detail and I will typically draw a small number of high-level UML class diagrams if I want to explain how a particular pattern or component will be (or has been) implemented. A single diagram can quickly become cluttered and confused, but a collection of simple diagrams allows you to easily present the software from a number of different levels of abstraction. This simple sketching approach works for me and many of the software teams that I work with, but it's about about providing some organisational ideas and guidelines rather than creating a prescriptive standard.
Simon Brown lives in Jersey (Channel Islands) and works as an independent consultant, specialising in software architecture, technical leadership and the balance with agility.
Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. The diagram above represents NPR’s content management pipeline and how it embraces these COPE principles. Through COPE, our systems have enabled incredible growth despite having a small staff and limited resources. In this series of posts, I will be discussing these philosophies, as well as how NPR applied them and how we were able to do so much with so little (including our NPR API). COPE is the key difference between content management systems and web publishing tools, although these terms are often used interchangeably in our industry. True CMS’s are really just content capturing tools that are completely agnostic as to how or where the content will be viewed, whether it is a web page, mobile app, TV or radio display, etc. But to truly separate content from display, the content repository needs to also avoid storing “dirty” content.
He explains the impact project Jigsaw has on developers in terms of building their applications, as well as helping them to understand how things like encapsulation will change in JDK 9.
He explains harsh realities like accepting being wrong where people don't like to be wrong and spotting mistakes from others while not seeing your own mistakes, and explores how you can squeeze out the learning in different situations and really learn from mistakes. Managing the redistribution of key ranges across new pool sizes and the associated persistent data storage was particularly challenging. Whether it's physical or virtual, there's likely to be a story wall or Kanban board visualising the work yet to be started, in progress and done. Examples include the Rational Unified Process (RUP), Structured Systems Analysis And Design Method (SSADM), the Unified Modelling Language (UML) and so on. I do use UML myself, but I only tend to use it sparingly for sketching out any important low-level design aspects of a software system. My approach is to use a small collection of simple diagrams that each show a different part of the same overall story. This could be anything from a web or application server through to a rich client application, database or file system.
Detail isn't important here as this is your zoomed out view showing a big picture of the system landscape. The factors that prompt me to draw class diagrams for parts of the software system include the complexity of the software plus the size and experience of the team.
And this is an important point because it's not just software developers within the team that need information about the software.


The goal here is to help teams communicate their software designs in an effective and efficient way rather than creating another comprehensive modelling notation. In the same way that software architecture should be about coding, coaching and collaboration rather than ivory towers, software architecture diagrams should be grounded in reality too. The context, containers and components diagrams show what I consider to be the significant structural elements of a software system. I've often found it works best for designing small slices of the system which are given directly to developers for implementation while high level ideas and processes work best as freeform sketches (I actually use visio for that). A visual language should be readable for anyone.The main use of UML was for me that it's a Pattern Language through its diagrams, it has a "problem-solution" form. It represents the overall structure and foundation (including why, what, how and where domains of solution space) of a software system in a run-time environment in order to satisfy the functional requirements and achieve a desired set of quality attributes. For years, the Internet has been about web sites and browser-based experiences, and the systems that drove those sites generally matched those experiences.
The basic principle is to have content producers and ingestion scripts funnel content into a single system (or series of closely tied systems). Creating an API on top of a COPE-less system will distribute the content, but there is still no guarantee that the content can actually live on any platform.
The goal of any CMS should be to gather enough information to present the content on any platform, in any presentation, at any time. Additionally, platforms that don’t yet exist are able to be served by a true CMS in ways that WPT’s may not be able to (even with plug-ins).
The content, through the principles of COPE, is pushed out to all of these destinations through the NPR API. In the most basic form, this means that the presentation layer needs to be a series of templates that know how to pull in the content from the repository.
Dirty content is content that contains any presentation layer information embedded in it, including HTML, XML, character encodings, microformats, and any other markup or rich formatting information. They are able to distribute content to different platforms, separate content from display, etc.
Visualising your software development process is a fantastic way to introduce transparency because anybody can see, at a glance, a high-level snapshot of the current progress. Although the software development industry has moved on in many ways, we seem to have forgotten some of the good things that these older approaches gave us. I don't find that UML works well for describing the high-level software architecture of a software system and while it's possible to debate this, it's often irrelevant because many teams have already thrown out UML or simply don't know it. In order to do this though, you need to agree on a simple way to think about the software system that you're building.
The focus should be on people (actors, roles, personas, etc) and software systems rather than technologies, protocols and other low-level details. Spring, Hibernate, Windows Communication Foundation, F#, etc) can also be added to the diagram in order to ground the design in reality. There are other stakeholders and consumers too; ranging from non-technical domain experts, testers and management through to technical staff in operations and support functions. It's worth reiterating that informal boxes and lines sketches provide flexibility at the expense of diagram consistency because you're creating your own notation rather than using a standard like UML.
Including technology choices (or options) is a usually a step in the right direction and will help prevent diagrams looking like an ivory tower architecture where a bunch of conceptual components magically collaborate to form an end-to-end software system. Therefore, in addition to helping teams with effective and efficient communication, adopting this approach to diagramming can also help software teams that struggle with either doing too much or too little up front design.
He is the founder of Coding the Architecture (a website about pragmatic, hands-on software architecture) and the author of Software Architecture for Developers (an e-book that is being published incrementally through Leanpub).
Although sequence and collaboration diagrams are usually used to represent the flow of messages between objects, there's no reason why you can't step up one level of abstraction and think about components, or further to show container interactions. It was short, simple and the notation could be explained to non-technical people if needed.
There's always a backlash against any powerfully complex technology like UML that takes a considerable investment of time to learn. Your article did a very good job in explaining the design concerns in terms of coding implementation from developer perspective, but does not provide enough details about other a€?architecture viewsa€? (process flow, deployment view etc.) from operation, business stakeholdera€™s perspective. Once there, the distribution of all content can be handled identically, regardless of content type or its destinations (Click here for an enlargement of this diagram).
Any system that adheres to these principles, whether it is a COTS product, home-grown, or anything in between, will see the benefits of content modularity and portability.
COPE is dependent on these other philosophies to ensure that the content is truly portable. By applying COPE, NPR was able to quickly jump on advancements throughout the years like RSS, Podcasts, API’s and mobile platforms with relative ease.


This enables the presentation layer to care about how the content will look while the content can be display-agnostic, allowing it to appear on a web site, a mobile device, etc. But to take some of these systems to the next level, enabling them to scale and adapt to our changing landscape, they will need to focus more on content modularity and portability.
As an industry, we've become pretty adept at visualising our software development process over the past few years although it seems we've forgotten how to visualise the actual software that we're building. In today's world of agile delivery and lean startups, some software teams have lost the ability to communicate what it is they are building and it's no surprise that these teams often seem to lack technical leadership, direction and consistency. Such teams typically favour informal boxes and lines style sketches instead but often these diagrams don't make much sense unless they are accompanied by a detailed narrative, which ultimately slows the team down.
The key thing about understanding a software system from a containers perspective is that any inter-container communication is likely to require a remote interface such as a web service call, remote method invocation, messaging, etc. For example, a diagram showing the containers is particularly useful for people like operations and support staff that want some technical information about your software system, but don't necessarily need to know anything about the inner workings.
My advice here is to be conscious of colour-coding, line style, shapes, etc and let a set of consistent notations evolve naturally within your team.
Starting with a blank sheet of paper, many software systems can be designed and illustrated down to high-level components in a number of hours or days rather than weeks or months. Except for the difference between aggregation and composition, of course!To pick up on your last point about "just a bunch of code", this is something that I'm looking into at the moment.
With the growing need and ability to be portable comes tremendous opportunity for content providers.
As an example, the public API took only about two developer months to create, and most of that time was spent on user and rights management. In my next post, I will go into more detail about NPR’s approach to content modularity and why our approach is more than just data normalization.
I'm not just referring to post-project documentation, this also includes communication during the software development process. If you want to ensure that everybody is contributing to the same end-goal, you need to be able to effectively communicate the vision of what it is you're building.
Next time somebody presents a software design to you focussed around one or more informal sketches, ask yourself whether they are presenting what's on the sketches or whether they are presenting what's still in their head. Illustrating the design of your software can be a quick and easy task that, when done well, can really help to introduce technical leadership and instil a sense of a shared technical vision that the whole team can buy into. If you're interested too, I've written a blog entry called Mapping software architecture to code and George Fairbanks talks about something he refers to as architecturally evident coding. Plug-ins are often available for distribution to other platforms, but applying tools on top of the native functions to manipulate the content for alternate destinations makes the system inherently unscalable. Agility is about moving fast and this requires good communication, but it's surprising that many teams struggle to effectively communicate the design of their software. And if you want agility and the ability to move fast, you need to be able to communicate that vision efficiently too. It's a simple hierarchy of logical building blocks that can be used to model most of the software systems that I've encountered.
Depending on these, use a Deployment DIagram or a Component Diagram.UML taught me what to look at when facing certain problems. Writing code that better maps onto the architecture allows the type of diagrams I talk about above to be generated automatically.
It requires distribution platforms, API’s and other ways to get the content to where it needs to be.
That is, for each new platform, WPT’s will need a new plug-in to tailor the presentation markup to that platform.
It's a great way to visualise a solution and communicate it quickly plus it paves the way for collaborative design and collective code ownership. Unfortunately, because standard UML expects its readers to be intimately familiar with its visual vocabulary, and doesn't really deal with aesthetics, it's unusable for client consumption, so "visual stereotyping" has to be used. CMS’s, on the other hand, store the content cleanly, enabling the presentation layers to worry about how to display the content not on how to transform the markup embedded within it. In order for content providers to take full advantage of these new platforms, they will need to, first and foremost, embrace one simple philosophy: COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere).



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