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Software Architecture

The software architecture of a system represents the design decisions related to overall system structure and behavior. Architecture helps stakeholders understand and analyze how the system will achieve essential qualities such as modifiability, availability, and security.

Software architecture supports analysis of system qualities when teams are making decisions about the system rather than after implementation, integration, or deployment. Whether designing a new system, evolving a successful system, or modernizing a legacy system, this timely analysis enables teams to determine whether the approaches they’ve chosen will yield an acceptable solution. An effective architecture serves as the conceptual glue that holds every phase of the project together for all of its stakeholders, enabling agility, time and cost savings, and early identification of design risks.

Building an effective architecture that enables rapid product delivery for today’s needs while also addressing long-term goals can prove challenging. Failing to identify, prioritize, and manage trade-offs among architecturally significant qualities often leads to project delays, costly rework, or worse.

An effective software architecture supported by agile architecture practices enables effective continuous system evolution. Such practices include documenting the architectural elements and interrelationships intended to achieve key qualities; repeatedly evaluating the architecture for fitness with respect to an organization’s business and mission goals; and analyzing the deployed system for conformance to an architecture. When performed correctly, these practices enable predictable product quality, fewer downstream problems, time and cost savings in integration and test, and cost-effective system evolution.


Advancing the Practice of Software Architecture

For over two decades, the SEI has been and continues to be at the forefront of establishing, maturing, and disseminating proven techniques to help you achieve the benefits that a good architecture can deliver. We have developed a range of proven methods, such as the Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method, that can help organizations at any stage in the software development lifecycle, and regardless of whether they follow an in-house, acquisition-based, Agile, or waterfall model. Whether the context is cloud migration, architecting for AI and ML, modernizing legacy systems, DevSecOps, or continuous evolution, we have honed our expertise by applying our research to real customer projects across many domains.

Our techniques and practices have helped organizations

  • reduce business and mission risk, such as risks to cost, schedule, time to market, etc.
  • enable agile, iterative development
  • reduce development risk
  • develop quality products and services
  • modernize legacy systems
  • assess the architectural origins and consequences of technical debt
  • analyze alternatives

We share the lessons we’ve learned and our established practices through courses that we offer at the SEI. The SEI series of books on software architecture have defined the practice of software architecture, including the definition, design, documentation, and evaluation of architectures. These works include Software Architecture in Practice and Designing Software Architectures. We also routinely publish our research results as well as case studies of work we’ve done with organizations to advance software architecture practices. Our ongoing research focuses on developing automated tools to support time-consuming tasks such as large-scale component refactoring or determining whether implementations conform to intended designs.

You can leverage our extensive experience to improve your software architecture skills. We can work with you to help incorporate architecture-centric engineering best practices into your organization.

What We Offer

The Latest from the SEI Blog

Mario Benitez

Software Isolation: Why It Matters to Software Evolution and Why Everybody Puts It Off

March 20, 2023 • Blog Post
Mario Benitez Preciado

This SEI Blog post discusses the practice of software isolation, which is one of the steps in large-scale refactoring efforts that most software development organizations go...

Stephany Bellomo

Experiences Documenting and Remediating Enterprise Technical Debt

December 19, 2022 • Blog Post
Stephany Bellomo

This SEI Blog post provides examples of enterprise technical debt and the risk it represents taken from real-world...


Our Vision for the Future


We see a future in which design tools make routine tasks easier for architects, allowing them to focus on more challenging aspects of architecting such as design exploration and prototyping. AI-driven approaches, including search-based and deep learning algorithms, have potential to provide architects with otherwise hard-to-detect information from the code base. These tools can augment an architect’s experience and expertise by predicting design risks and recommending judicious solutions. Such advances will streamline system analysis with respect to the business, mission, and technology drivers that shape a system’s architecture. Improved automation will also optimize architectural decision making by guiding the analysis of system quality attributes and recommending proven patterns and techniques for their realization.

Software architecture will remain an essential practice as we incorporate new technologies in our systems, especially as AI-enabled systems become more mainstream. An architecture-centric engineering approach to the design, deployment, and sustainment of software systems that include AI and ML components will drive the success of software systems.


To learn more about the future of software architecture, contact us.