Workshop to Present Best Practices in Software Architecture

NEWS AT SEI

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Software Architecture

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: March 1, 2007

“For the highly complex, massively large-scale, and highly interoperable systems that we need now and in the future, architecture is the linchpin,” Rolf Siegers of Raytheon said at last year’s Software Architecture Technology User’s Network (SATURN) workshop held by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). To support that statement, he cited research by Barry Boehm and Richard Turner that examined over 161 software-intensive system projects ranging from 2,600 to 1.3 million lines of code [Boehm 2004]. The results showed that increased investment on time spent architecting resulted in significantly less system rework and shorter time to market. “We all agree that this discipline [developing architectures] is a better way to do things, but having quantified results makes it far easier to establish it as part of your business case.”

Over the past year, what Siegers said hasn’t changed. So the SEI is continuing to help organizations build a business case for architecture and fine-tune how they can produce high-quality systems through its SATURN workshop—a yearly gathering of users of SEI architectural methods and techniques. At SATURN, engineers, architects, and technical and product managers exchange their best practices for and personal experiences in developing or acquiring software architectures and using them to build predictable, successful systems. SATURN 2007 is scheduled for May 14 to 16 in Pittsburgh.

During his keynote at SATURN 2006, Siegers shared Raytheon’s experience using SEI methods such as the Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM) evaluation and Quality Attribute Workshop (QAW). He explained why his company has incorporated ATAM evaluator training by the SEI as an explicit requirement in its certified architect program: “We adapted the ATAM to systems architecture to address a need that couldn’t be met by anything else out there—ATAM filled a void that no one else touched.” The Raytheon Certified Architect Program (RCAP) also uses the QAW to help clarify nonfunctional requirements when necessary.

The ATAM and QAW are also standard methods in the architecture toolkit that Don O’Connell draws from in his work at Boeing Phantom Works. During his SATURN 2006 keynote, O’Connell described his experience using ATAM this way: “ATAM evaluations that focus on cost reduction enable us to identify and mitigate risks—a process that reduces rework and therefore cost.”

Such real-life ways of using SEI technologies are exactly what draw people to SATURN workshops. O’Connell finds SATURN unique because of its interactivity. “Instead of just listening to presentations, SATURN provides opportunities to learn where people are actually struggling to find solutions to problems,” he said.

The numbers of organizations participating in architecture-centric conferences and workshops such as the Working IEEE/IFIP Conference on Software Architecture (WICSA) [WICSA 2007] and SATURN [SEI 2007] are growing each year, showing increased interest in the value of software architecture. A total of 38 organizations took part in the first two SATURN workshops, and at least 25 more will be joining those ranks this year. SATURN 2007 has the most international involvement so far, with presenters from Korea, India, Australia, and Ireland.

Proof that architecting is becoming more valued is also evidenced by the recent efforts of large organizations such as Raytheon to establish a variety of architecture initiatives such as certification programs to improve and support the company’s architecture practices. Other organizations such as Siemens and Bosch show a similar dedication to creating high-quality software with their well-established research centers that focus on architecture practice. Additional organizations such as Unisys have joined the ranks of those committed to using the ATAM as standard practice. All of that evidence led workshop co-chairs Ipek Ozkaya and Rob Wojcik (both of the SEI) to oversee the creation of a diverse program for SATURN 2007. In addition to focusing on best practice and experience sharing, this year’s workshop will highlight these and other topics:

  • how to clarify and codify the role of the software architect
  • the economics-driven aspects of software architecture
  • the relationship between software and system architecture
  • how to improve the state of architectural practices across an organization
  • architecturally significant requirements
  • how to apply SEI software architecture methods within organizations

The SATURN 2007 program also includes

  • a panel session on experiences using the ATAM
  • tutorials that cover topics such as evaluating service-oriented architecture and integrating architecture-centric methods into object-oriented analysis and design
  • working sessions on economics-driven architecting and architecture-based system evolution

Two keynotes are planned by these software architecture experts:

  • Ian Gorton of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) will describe some novel, prototype tools for architecture knowledge management, collaborative architecture design and decision making, and performance analysis of COTS-based architectures.
  • Jeromy Carrière of Fidelity Investments will present a retrospective that journals his experiences practicing architecture in environments as varied as telecommunications, academia, dot com and post-dot com era startups, a large independent software vendor, and enterprises in media and financial services.

SATURN pre-registration closes at 5 p.m. Eastern time on May 9. After that, all SATURN attendees may register on-site. For more information about the SATURN 2007, go to http://www.sei.cmu.edu/saturn/.  

[Boehm 2004]
Boehm, Barry & Turner Richard. Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed. Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley, 2004.

[SEI 2007]
Software Engineering Institute. Third SEI Software Architecture Technology User Network Workshop. http://www.sei.cmu.edu/saturn/ (2007).

[WICSA 2007]
IFIP Working Group. WICSA: The Working IEEE/IFIP Conference on Software Architecture. (2007).

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