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Systems architecture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Example of a high-level systems architecture for a computer

A system architecture is the conceptual model that defines the structure, behavior, and more views of a system.[1] An architecture description is a formal description and representation of a system, organized in a way that supports reasoning about the structures and behaviors of the system.

A system architecture can consist of system components and the sub-systems developed, that will work together to implement the overall system. There have been efforts to formalize languages to describe system architecture, collectively these are called architecture description languages (ADLs).[2][3][4]


Various organizations can define systems architecture in different ways, including:

  • The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and to the environment, and the principles governing its design and evolution.[5]
  • A representation of a system, including a mapping of functionality onto hardware and software components, a mapping of the software architecture onto the hardware architecture, and human interaction with these components.[6]
  • An allocated arrangement of physical elements which provides the design solution for a consumer product or life-cycle process intended to satisfy the requirements of the functional architecture and the requirements baseline.[7]
  • An architecture consists of the most important, pervasive, top-level, strategic inventions, decisions, and their associated rationales about the overall structure (i.e., essential elements and their relationships) and associated characteristics and behavior.[8]
  • A description of the design and contents of a computer system. If documented, it may include information such as a detailed inventory of current hardware, software and networking capabilities; a description of long-range plans and priorities for future purchases, and a plan for upgrading and/or replacing dated equipment and software.[9]
  • A formal description of a system, or a detailed plan of the system at component level to guide its implementation.[10]
  • The composite of the design architectures for products and their life-cycle processes.[11]
  • The structure of components, their interrelationships, and the principles and guidelines governing their design and evolution over time.[12]

One can think of system architecture as a set of representations of an existing (or future) system. These representations initially describe a general, high-level functional organization, and are progressively refined to more detailed and concrete descriptions.

System architecture conveys the informational content of the elements consisting of a system, the relationships among those elements, and the rules governing those relationships. The architectural components and set of relationships between these components that an architecture description may consist of hardware, software, documentation, facilities, manual procedures, or roles played by organizations or people.[clarification needed]

A system architecture primarily concentrates on the internal interfaces among the system's components or subsystems, and on the interface(s) between the system and its external environment, especially the user. (In the specific case of computer systems, this latter, special, interface is known as the computer human interface, AKA human computer interface, or HCI; formerly called the man-machine interface.)

One can contrast a system architecture with system architecture engineering (SAE) - the method and discipline for effectively implementing the architecture of a system:[13]

  • SAE is a method because a sequence of steps is prescribed[by whom?] to produce or to change the architecture of a system within a set of constraints.
  • SAE is a discipline because a body of knowledge is used to inform practitioners as to the most effective way to design the system within a set of constraints.


Systems architecture depends heavily on practices and techniques which were developed over thousands of years in many other fields, perhaps the most important being civil architecture.

  • Prior to the advent of digital computers, the electronics and other engineering disciplines used the term "system" as it is still commonly used today. However, with the arrival of digital computers and the development of software engineering as a separate discipline, it was often necessary to distinguish among engineered hardware artifacts, software artifacts, and the combined artifacts. A programmable hardware artifact, or computing machine, that lacks its computer program is impotent; even as a software artifact, or program, is equally impotent unless it can be used to alter the sequential states of a suitable (hardware) machine. However, a hardware machine and its programming can be designed to perform an almost illimitable number of abstract and physical tasks. Within the computer and software engineering disciplines (and, often, other engineering disciplines, such as communications), then, the term system came to be defined as containing all of the elements necessary (which generally includes both hardware and software) to perform a useful function.
  • Consequently, within these engineering disciplines, a system generally refers to a programmable hardware machine and its included program. And a systems engineer is defined as one concerned with the complete device, both hardware and software and, more particularly, all of the interfaces of the device, including that between hardware and software, and especially between the complete device and its user (the CHI). The hardware engineer deals (more or less) exclusively with the hardware device; the software engineer deals (more or less) exclusively with the computer program; and the systems engineer is responsible for seeing that the program is capable of properly running within the hardware device, and that the system composed of the two entities is capable of properly interacting with its external environment, especially the user, and performing its intended function.
  • A systems architecture makes use of elements of both software and hardware and is used to enable the design of such a composite system. A good architecture may be viewed as a 'partitioning scheme,' or algorithm, which partitions all of the system's present and foreseeable requirements into a workable set of cleanly bounded subsystems with nothing left over. That is, it is a partitioning scheme which is exclusive, inclusive, and exhaustive. A major purpose of the partitioning is to arrange the elements in the sub systems so that there is a minimum of interdependencies needed among them. In both software and hardware, a good sub system tends to be seen to be a meaningful "object". Moreover, a good architecture provides for an easy mapping to the user's requirements and the validation tests of the user's requirements. Ideally, a mapping also exists from every least element to every requirement and test.


Several types of systems architectures (underlain by the same fundamental principles[14]) have been identified as follows:[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hannu Jaakkoррмшлинla and Bernhard Thalheim. (2011) "Architecture-driven modelling methodologies." In: Proceedings of the 2011 conference on Information Modelling and Knowledge Bases XXII. Anneli Heimbürger et al. (eds). IOS Press. p. 98
  2. ^ Paul C. Clements (1996) "A survey of architecture description languages." Proceedings of the 8th international workshop on software specification and design. IEEE Computer Society, 1996.
  3. ^ Nenad Medvidovic and Richard N. Taylor (2000). "A classification and comparison framework for software architecture description languages." Software Engineering, IEEE Transactions on 26.1 (2000): 70-93.
  4. ^ Nejad, Bobby (2023), Nejad, Bobby (ed.), "The Physical Architecture", Introduction to Satellite Ground Segment Systems Engineering: Principles and Operational Aspects, Space Technology Library, vol. 41, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 187–197, doi:10.1007/978-3-031-15900-8_13, ISBN 978-3-031-15900-8, retrieved 2022-12-07
  5. ^ From ANSI/IEEE 1471-2000.
  6. ^ From the Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute.
  7. ^ From The Human Engineering Home Page's Glossary. Archived 2015-02-13 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ From OPEN Process Framework (OPF) Repository Archived 2006-03-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ From The National Center for Education Statistics glossary.
  10. ^ TOGAF
  11. ^ From IEEE 1220-1998 as found at their glossary Archived 2006-05-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ TOGAF
  13. ^ The Method Framework for Engineering System Architectures, Donald Firesmith et al., 2008
  14. ^ The fundamental principles of Systems Architecture, by Boris Golden
  15. ^ The Art of Systems Architecture, Mark Maier and Eberhardt Rechtin, 2nd ed 2002
  16. ^ Abbas, Karim (2023). From Algorithms to Hardware Architectures. doi:10.1007/978-3-031-08693-9. ISBN 978-3-031-08692-2. S2CID 251371033.
  17. ^ Michaels, Paul (2022). Software Architecture by Example. doi:10.1007/978-1-4842-7990-8. ISBN 978-1-4842-7989-2. S2CID 248408249.
  18. ^ Zeng, Ruiqi; Niu, Yiru; Zhao, Yue; Peng, Haiyang (2022). "Software Architecture Evolution and Technology Research". In Liu, Shuai; Ma, Xuefei (eds.). Advanced Hybrid Information Processing. Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering. Vol. 416. Cham: Springer International Publishing. pp. 708–720. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-94551-0_54. ISBN 978-3-030-94551-0. S2CID 246051702.
  19. ^ Ziemann, Jörg (2022), Ziemann, Jörg (ed.), "Enterprise Architecture in a Nutshell", Fundamentals of Enterprise Architecture Management: Foundations for Steering the Enterprise-Wide Digital System, The Enterprise Engineering Series, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 23–60, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-96734-5_2, ISBN 978-3-030-96734-5, retrieved 2022-12-07
  20. ^ Musukutwa, Sheunopa Chalmers (2022), Musukutwa, Sheunopa Chalmers (ed.), "Developing an Enterprise Architecture", SAP Enterprise Architecture: A Blueprint for Executing Digital Transformation, Berkeley, CA: Apress, pp. 51–92, doi:10.1007/978-1-4842-8575-6_3, ISBN 978-1-4842-8575-6, retrieved 2022-12-07
  21. ^ Markusheska, Nastasija; Srinivasan, Venkatachalam; Walther, Jan-Niclas; Gindorf, Alex; Biedermann, Jörn; Meller, Frank; Nagel, Björn (2022-07-01). "Implementing a system architecture model for automated aircraft cabin assembly processes". CEAS Aeronautical Journal. 13 (3): 689–703. doi:10.1007/s13272-022-00582-6. ISSN 1869-5590. S2CID 248972956.
  22. ^ Choosing A Strategic Systems Architecture, by Brad Day

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