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Software Architecture

Architecture is a high level design of the system with interconnectivity of the components that make the system.

We make architectural decisions at the start of projects when we know the least about what we’re building. Our understanding of the reqs can only increase after that point.

Prioritize features based on value provided and architectural significance.

How do we deal with architecture?

  • Keep it simple
    • recognize what we’re really solving
    • get to the core of the problem
  • Refactor aggressively
    • “Make it work, make it better real soon”
    • “Build the software and throw it away, now you have a way to build the real software” - Fred Brooks
  • Reversibility
    • Think about how you can back out of a decision
    • eg. language choice is really hard to reverse
  • Postpone decisions until the last responsible moment
    • can you make your app DB agnostic?
    • The last responsible moment for choice of DB is just before deployment
  • Follow YAGNI
  • Minimize libs and frameworks usage


  • Make things extensible is to solve problems that we really need to solve today
  • Make things usable first. Reusability comes later.

Design stamina hypothesis

Proposed by Martin Fowler. Design has lower payoff early in the lifecycle, but there is an inflection point at which design starts paying off. Before that point, design costs money - after, it saves.

Notes: Design Principles and Design Patterns (Robert C Martin)

Architecture at different levels:

  • architecture patterns that define the overall shape and structure of software applications
  • architecture that is specifically related to the purpose of the software application
  • architecture of the modules and their interconnections -> main focus of the paper

Symptoms of rotting design

  • Rigidity: tendency for software to be difficult to change, even in simple ways
  • Fragility: tendency of the software to break in many places every time it is changed
  • Immobility: inability to reuse software from other projects or from parts of the same project
  • Viscosity:
    • Viscosity of design: design preserving methods are harder to employ than hacks.
    • Viscosity of environment: dev environment is slow and inefficient. e.g. slow compile times, long CI cycle.


  • change in requirements that were not anticipated in the initial design.
  • changes that introduce new and unplanned for dependencies.
  • changes that need to be made quickly, by developers unfamiliar with the original design philosophy.


  • Make code resilient to change
  • Create dependency firewalls

Redesigning the software is the wrong approach here, because the old design continues to evolve and change, and the new design must keep up.

Principles of Object Oriented Class Design

  • Open Closed Principle
    • we want to be able to change what the modules do, without changing the source code of the modules.
  • Liskov Substitution Principle
    • LSP can be restated in terms of design by contract:
      • A derived class is substitutable for its base class if:
        • Its preconditions are no stronger than the base class method.
        • Its postconditions are no weaker than the base class method.
      • Derived methods should expect no more and provide no less.
    • Example of Liskov violation: Circles are a type of ellipse, but have a single focus. If a Ellipse#set_foci(a, b) method exists, Circle should also implement it, but would need to ignore one of the args. This is a violation of the contract, because circle.focus_b would return a, because b was ignored.
  • Dependency Inversion Principle
    • depending upon interfaces or abstract functions and classes, rather than upon concrete functions and classes
    • Every dependency in the design should target an interface, or an abstract class. No dependency should target a concrete class.
    • However, if you have tried and true modules that are concrete, but not volatile, depending upon them is not so bad
  • Interface Segregation Principle
    • If you have a class that has several clients, rather than loading the class with all the methods that the clients need, create specific interfaces for each client and multiply inherit them into the class.

Principles of Package Architecture

Package Cohesion Principles:

  • Release Reuse Equivalency Principle: The granule of reuse is the granule of release.
    • A reusable element (component, class, or a cluster of classes) cannot be reused unless it is managed by a release system of some kind.
    • Group reusable classes into packages
    • Makes life easy for reusers
  • Common Closure Principle: Classes that change together, belong together.
    • Minimize the number of packages that change in any given release cycle of a product.
    • Group together classes that are likely to change together
    • Makes life easier for maintainers
  • Common Reuse Principle: Classes that aren’t reused together should not be grouped together.
    • A new package release requires the effort of revalidating the changes before upgrade, even if nothing of interest changed.
    • Makes life easy for reusers

The above 3 principles are mutually exclusive - they can’t be simultaneously satisfied.

Package coupling principles:

These principles govern the interrelationships between packages.

  • Acyclic Dependencies Principle: The dependencies betwen packages must not form cycles.
    • Transitive dependencies between modules can cause every module to depend upon every other module.
  • Stable Dependencies Principle: Depend in the direction of stability.
    • Stability is related to the amount of work required to make a change.
    • Stability metrics:
      • Afferent Coupling (Ca): The number of classes outside the package that depend upon classes inside the package. (i.e. incomming dependencies)
      • Efferent Coupling: The number of classes outside the package that classes inside the package depend upon. (i.e. outgoing dependencies)
      • Instability (I): Ce/(Ca+ce)
        • has a range of 0 to 1.
    • If there are no outgoing dependencies, then I = 0 and the package is stable.
    • If there are no incomming dependencies then I = 1 and the package is instable.
    • Depend upon packages whose I metric is lower than yours.
    • This principle is a restatement of Dependency Inversion Principle.
    • It states the packages that are the most depended upon (i.e. stable) should also be the most abstract.
  • Stable Abstractions Principle: Stable packages should be abstract packages.
    • Abstractness metrics:
      • Abstractness A = Na/Nc
        • Na - # of classes in package
        • Nc - # of abstract classes in package
      • I should increase as A decreases
      • A position on the line (in the I vs A graph below) means that the package is abstract in proportion to its incomming dependencies and is concrete in proportion to its outgoing dependencies.
    • Distance metrics:
      • How far is a package from the main sequence?
      • Distance, D = |A + I - 1| / √2
      • Normalized distance D′ = | A + I – 1 |
  | \
  |  \
↑ |   \
A |    \
  |     \
  |      \
 0  I →    1

Patterns of Object Oriented Architecture

  • Abstract server
    • When a client depends directly on a server, the DIP is violated. Changes to the server will propogate to the client, and the client will be unable to easily use similar servers.
    • An abstract interface between the client and server solves this problem.
    • It becomes a “hinge point” upon which the design can flex.
    • Different server implementations can be bound to an unsuspecting client.
  • Adapter
    • inserting an abstract interface is infeasible when the server is third party software, or is so heavily depended upon that it cannot easily be changed
    • An adapter can be used to bind the abstract interface to the server
    • It is n object that implements the abstract interface to delegate to the server
    • Every method of the adpater simply translates and then delegates
  • Observer
    • Used when one element needs to take action when another element detects something, and we don’t want the detector to know about the actor.
    • Example: A Sensor derives from Subject, and Meter derives from an Observer interface. Meter uses Subject#register to register itself to Sensor’s list of observers. When reading changes, Sensor calls Subject#notify, which calls #update on each registered Observer.
  • Bridge
    • Creates a strong seperation between the interface and implementation
  • Abstract factory
    • allows that dependency upon the concrete class to exist in a single place.