Software Architecture 2008

This is the first in a two part blog-post about the software architecture 2008 conference in London.
barbican
The two parts consist of:

  1. The conference itself, the conference location and software architecture in general.
  2. Building domain-specific modeling languages

The conference was great, a wonderful location, fantastic speakers and a very diverse audience. The conference was held at the barbican conference centre.

The blog posts are based on sessions from the following speakers:

Still there is a need for defining an architect and defining architectures, the key note and some sessions started with definitions. For defining an architecture there are some pretty good definitions that most people can agree upon.

“The software architecture of a program or computing system is the structure or structures of the system, which comprise software elements the externally visible qualities of those elements, and the relationship among them.”
Len Bass, Paul Clements and Rick Kazman (SEI)
“All architecture is design but not all design is architecture. Architecture represents the significant design decisions that shape a system, where significant is measured by cost of change.”
Grady Booch
“The set of design decisions that, if made wrongly, causes your project to be cancelled”
Eoin Woods
“Architecture is the art of how to waste space.”
Philip Johnson

But when it comes to defining an architect the definitions are less clear and mostly boil down to a list of synonyms or a list of characteristics, skills or activities of an architect.

Synonyms
Enterprise Architecture: enterprise Architect, functional architect, business architect, strategic architect, domain architect, stream architect, …
System Architecture: software architect, solutions architect, application architect, systems architect, technical architect, …
Infrastructure Architecture: Infrastructure architect, technical architect, technology architect, database architect, middleware architect, network architect, database architect, storage architect, …

The characteristics could be distilled out of the key-note. Among other characteristics an architect needs to fight being human. An architect must fight the urge for

  • New and complex solutions (Fashion driven development)
  • Pursuing possible solutions too far
  • Just having faith (Faith based coding)
  • His own habits
  • Resolving every uncertainty right away (sometimes the right decision is to wait)

Most speakers did seem to agree on a certain skill set.

  • An architect needs street credibility
    • A relation to the code (preferably code himself)
    • Have the big picture to code detail
    • Cannot immerse in code completely
  • A solid technical background that isn’t just history
  • Communicator, appreciate other mindsets.
  • Needs design skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Coaching skills

One of things that was most prominent present was the need for architects to be more agile. Philippe Kruchten also held a session on the same topic on the 18th of june . This talk was an initiative by Logica’s guru4Pro and worthy of a blog post in itself. At the software architecture 2008 conference the message was clear. We need to be more agile to create more sustainable software and projects fail because we are not agile enough. To get an idea, watch the presentation from Kevlin Henney and James Coplien at infoq ( Agile Architecture is not Fragile Architecture ). What you could get from the conference, Philippe Kruchten and the presentation is:

On every project ask yourself: how much architecture do I need and how agile can I be to make this project a success !

In the key-note Kevlin Henney mentioned the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition. This model recognizes five stages of skill acquisition.

  • Novice
  • Advanced Beginner
  • Competent
  • Proficient
  • Expert

According to Kevlin Henney at the novice level people try to learn the rules, when people start to be competent they start to bend the rules and finally the expert recognizes that the rules depend on the context. That is why when you a ask an expert architect a question, nine out of ten times the answer is “it depends“.

And yes, the answer always depends on the context.

Kevlin Henney mentions that the emphasis on context is mostly his own (as are his jokes!), as this comes from patterns, but some of the detail and framing has been inspired and influenced by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas (the Pragmatic Programmers) and Dan North (better-best-practices).

Let’s make a step in becoming more of an expert in software architecture and recognize that also when :

  • you define an architecture
  • you define an architect
  • you write down what the characteristic of an architect are
  • you determine the tasks of an architect
  • you define the skills that an architect needs
  • you determine how agile a project must be
  • you determine how much architecture a project needs

It depends on the context.

C# 3.0 in a nutshell

A while ago I purchased the book C# 3.0 In a Nutshell. This post gives my first impression.

It is an amazing reference guide with a lot of detail. This picture gives a great overview of what is in the book and where it is. Notice that what is outside of the circle, like ASP.Net, ADO.Net, WCF and WF is not covered by the book.

If you see through the advertising this overview gives a pretty good idea about the book.

If you are looking for a book to teach you how a computer program is put together this is not the book for you. It describes al the parts pretty well but it doesn’t describe putting them together.

You could read the book from cover to cover. This is mainly because a very easy to read writing style and a good build up of level of detail. But the sheer number of facts that follow each other in a very rapid pace doesn’t make it very useful to read it from cover to cover, after a while facts just want stick anymore.

I would suggest, skimming through the book behind a computer trying the interesting things you see and experiment with it. After that keep the book on your desk and use at as the great reference guide it is.

Testing code formatting in blog post

A while ago I started a blog. In the beginning I came across a visual studio add-in for showing sources as HTML. I just had to test it. You can find the tool here CopySourceAsHtml.

A result of this add-in is the one below.

  250  private static void MakeFileWritable(FileSystemInfo dsInfo)

  251         {

  252             FileAttributes flags;

  253             flags = dsInfo.Attributes;

  254             if (flags == FileAttributes.ReadOnly)

  255             {

  256                 flags &= ~FileAttributes.ReadOnly;

  257             }

  258             dsInfo.Attributes = flags;

  259         }

 

I think it looks pretty kewl. It wasn’t a smart thing to use the horrible colours on the download page. Luckily the html will look exactly the same as it looks in visual studio.