Averting Tragedy on the Architectural Commons
Much has been made of the need to establish software architectures to provide the firm foundations on which successful products are constructed, but if a product is successful over the long term its architecture will not only need to evolve, but must be actively defended against malignant forces. The fact that software architectures tend to outlive the tenure of developers, architects, management teams and even companies makes the maintenance of software architectures over the long term crucial for the ability of products to deliver ongoing value.
What happens to the architecture of established systems in an environment where concurrent feature delivery projects make architectural ‘adjustments’ for their own ends? How can erosion of this shared architecture be managed across multiple teams? How can projects acting in their own best interests avoid over-exploiting the common architectural resource on which they all depend? Should ownership of the architecture be distributed and shared, or centralised and tightly controlled? Perhaps most importantly, can we detect when the architecture has been violated?
This talk explores how shared resources in other fields are managed for the common good, and draws analogies and lessons which can be applied to the shared ‘resource’ of a software architecture. Examples garnered from over twelve years working with greenfield and legacy software systems illustrate how to diagnose, understand the causes of, and address the erosion of application architectures so that products can flourish and be productive for future generations.