What is architecture diagramming?
Architecture diagramming is the process of creating visual representations of software system components. In a software system, the term architecture refers to various functions, their implementations, and their interactions with each other. As software is inherently abstract, architecture diagrams visually illustrate the various data movements within the system. They also highlight how the software interacts with the environment around it.
What are the benefits of architecture diagramming?
Architecture diagrams provide several benefits, such as collaboration, risk reduction, efficiency, and scalability.
Architecture diagrams significantly boost collaboration between developers and designers and create a unified view of system functionality and potential issues. A shared understanding of a system, application, or website has several benefits. It supports communication during the design process, helps teams develop effective system software components, and ensures a project meets its goals.
Architecture diagrams identify potential system development risks, such as incorrect assumptions, faulty logic, or inadequate testing. By identifying and addressing risks early in the software development lifecycle, development teams can make changes earlier and reduce the risk that significant issues appear later.
Architecture diagrams provide a clear view of system components and structure. So, stakeholders can identify problems accurately and resolve them quickly. Diagrams also make it easier to maintain and scale systems, so ongoing changes are more efficient.
Architecture diagrams allow stakeholders to identify efficient ways to scale a system. For example, a diagram may show if a system's architecture is centralized or distributed. Since distributed components scale more efficiently, monolithic components can be updated or replaced in time. Similarly, graphical representations provide insight into how data is stored and moved. Stakeholders can identify potential bottlenecks and ways to avoid them.
What software architecture patterns can you represent with architecture diagramming?
Software architecture patterns are design principles and best practices used to develop software systems. They provide a framework to structure the software and address specific challenges in complex software architectures.
Here are some of the most commonly used software architecture patterns.
Client-server architecture is a distributed application structure that separates tasks and workloads between servers and clients. Servers provide the resource or service, and clients request it.
The client and server are separate programs that communicate over a network. A web browser and web server are an example of client-server architecture. It’s a commonly used architecture in distributed computing.
Service-oriented architecture allow for interaction between distributed application components through services. Services are abstract, loosely coupled, and language-independent. Applications access them through interfaces. Developers can reuse existing services rather than having to rebuild from scratch. Service-oriented architecture is widely used in distributed systems, as services can be deployed across multiple servers.
Service-oriented architecture has evolved further, so developers use microservices architecture to build, deploy, and manage individual services. Applications are split into independently deployable services that communicate through APIs.
Smaller, independent services make it simpler for developers to develop, test, and deploy applications and deliver improved fault tolerances and rapid scaling. An example of a microservices architecture is a web application consisting of several independent services, each responsible for specific tasks.
Cloud-centered architecture is used to design and build applications for cloud environments. Cloud-centered architecture is built and delivered with cloud-specific technologies such as containers, microservices, DevOps, and serverless computing. It prioritizes automated deployment and management so that applications can be scaled up and down as needed.
Event-driven architecture is software architecture based on the production, detection, and consumption of events. User interactions, background tasks, and other sources trigger events that further trigger other functionality. The event-driven architecture allows applications to be more responsive to changes in a software system and its environment.
Layered architecture is a software architecture pattern that separates applications into logic-based layers. This type of architecture is designed to simplify complex applications and systems, as you can split tasks between layers.
Layers are organized from top to bottom:
- A presentation layer (for example, a UI) is at the top
- A business layer is in the middle
- A data layer is at the bottom
Layers can also be structured hierarchically, which aids maintenance and scalability.
What types of information are included in an architecture diagram?
Here are some common types of information found in an architecture diagram:
- Squares and circles represent components such as databases, networks, applications, and services
- Lines and arrows show the connections and interactions between the system's components
- Labels provide additional information about the components and connections
Additionally, the diagram may also use icons or symbols to visually represent the different components. A small legend at the bottom, similar to the legend on a map, explains icon usage. The way in which the components and connections are arranged is called a layout.
What are the types of architectural diagrams?
Several types of architectural diagrams visually represent various systems and software architectures. Here are some of the most common architecture diagram examples.
Software architecture diagram
Software architecture diagrams visually represent software components, relationships, and system interactions. They document, analyze, and communicate software design and are used to make decisions on implementation. These diagrams range from straightforward, high-level diagrams to detailed depictions of software component interactions.
System architecture diagram
System architecture diagrams provide a visual illustration of a system's various components and show how they communicate and interact with each other. These diagrams document a system's structure and architecture. This allows for a clear understanding of how the system works and how it can be improved.
Application architecture diagram
Application architecture diagrams illustrate application structure. They include components and how they interact with each other as well as the data flow between them. Application architecture diagrams provide a complete view of an application and are used to inform the application's design, implementation, and maintenance.
Integration architecture diagram
Integration architecture diagrams visually represent components, data, and technology involved in integration solutions. They show the relationships between different components, systems, and services and are used to help design, develop, and manage complex integration solutions. These diagrams are used to document and explain existing systems as well as plan and develop new integration solutions.
Deployment architecture diagram
Deployment architecture diagrams visually represent relationships between different application components and their deployment environments. Deployment architecture diagrams show the layout of an application and its components—including, for example, servers, storage, and networks. They’re used to plan capacity, scalability, and fault tolerance.
DevOps architecture diagram
DevOps architecture diagrams visualize the components of a DevOps system and how they interact. They commonly include components such as development environments, continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines, infrastructure as code, and cloud services. The diagrams illustrate the components' interactions and places in the wider DevOps environment.
Website architecture diagram
Website architecture diagrams visually represent website structures. The diagrams visually map the relationships and interactions between website components, such as webpages, databases, and content management systems. Web designers with access to website architecture diagrams can identify potential problem areas and develop effective strategies to improve the website's performance.
How can AWS support your architecture diagramming requirements?
At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we offer Workload Discovery on AWS as a tool to visualize AWS Cloud workloads. You can use it to build, customize, and share detailed architecture diagrams of your workloads based on live data from AWS. Workload Discovery on AWS removes significant documentation process overheads by providing both the data and the visualization tooling in one place.
Here are ways you can benefit from Workload Discovery on AWS:
- Build, customize, and share detailed architecture diagrams
- Save and export architecture diagrams
- Query AWS cost and usage reports
- Search and locate basic information, such as resource names, tag names, or IP addresses
- Explore account resources and AWS Regions by using the resource directory
Get started with architecture diagramming on AWS by creating a free AWS account today.