What You Need to Know About Systems Architecture


Art Villanueva – G2 Ops System Engineering Solution Director

Keywords – architecture, technology, software, hardware, systems, enterprise, engineer, solution, systems architecture

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes


What does System Architecture mean in the world of technology and non-shelter engineering?

The word architecture invokes reflections of structure. And often, it elicits feelings of awe and grandeur. After all, when we talk about architecture, we often refer to buildings – the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica, the massiveness and simplicity of the pyramids of Giza, and the alluring gaudiness of the Sagrada Familia. But when we talk about systems architecture, we’re most likely not referring to brick and mortar. Systems architecture is the embodiment of a system solution that takes into consideration functional needs (what does it do?), non-functional needs (how would you describe it?), and most specifically, its required quality attributes.


What is Architecture?

Architecture is design (though not necessarily the other way around), whether it be of software, hardware, systems, or enterprises. Architecture defines the highest-level solution to a problem. System architecture is the collective structure and behavior of a system and its relationship with its environment. What an architecture is not, is a model. A model is simply a representation of an architecture akin to what a blueprint is to the architecture of an office building.

But if systems architecture embodies the systems solution, it must also focus on such things as usability, reliability, security, affordability, and so on (sometimes called “ilities”). Because of this, when systems engineers refer to architecturally-significant requirements, it is these quality attribute requirements that matter the most. Because while problems often have many solutions, an architect realizes that there are only a handful of ways to satisfy the most important quality attribute requirements. So, what does this mean in the practical sense?


Architecture for the Real World

Take for example a need in which the goal is to get from point A to point B multiple times a week. Let’s assume the distance between the two points is anywhere between one and 300 miles of flat land. Functionally, many solutions exist, from a bicycle, a helicopter, a hot air balloon, a bus, and even a pair of shoes – you name it! A good architect, however, considers the non-functional requirements of this transportation device as the driving force in the design of a solution.

Does the customer require efficiency as the primary driving requirement? Is it affordability? Reliability? Coolness factor? If money is no object (wouldn’t that be nice) – i.e. affordability is absolutely not an issue – and other circumstances (such as laws) allow it, perhaps a quadcopter-like machine will suffice. If the customer has $100 to spend and getting to the destination quickly is not an issue, perhaps a bicycle-like solution for this transportation device will do.

Though this example is certainly contrived, it illustrates obvious architectural selections. In reality, these architectural decisions are not so clear-cut, and the architect is forced to weigh multiple quality attribute requirements against each other. Some or all may be equally important, and often diametrically opposed (e.g., how much more important is usability over security, or affordability over reliability?). Compromises are often necessary, and drive architectural solutions to be chosen among, say, an n-tier, a SOA, or a peer-to-peer solution.


System Architect/Engineer collaboration

Ultimately, because of many factors, the architecture of a system is defined not just by the architect, but equally as much by the implementing engineer. The relationship between an architect and an engineer is a push-and-pull, where the architect describes the vision of the solution, and the engineer provides its implementation. If the engineer cannot implement a particular architecture, the architect may be forced to reconsider other solutions or determine that, with consultation with the client, certain tradeoffs are now acceptable.


Final Words

It’s important to pay attention to non-functional requirements over functional ones. Architects, designers, engineers, and anyone that designs systems needs to know that functional requirements are not sufficient in defining a system, much less a complex one.

As for the transportation example, if I were the customer, and I need availability of fuel as well as reliability and sustainability of the device itself. I think a solution that’s an electric car will be just fine.


Learn more about MBSE, Cybersecurity, and Cloud Engineering at www.G2-ops.com


Cybersecurity Threats & Public Utilities Cyberattacks are increasingly targeting critical infrastructure. Are we ready? Virginia Beach, VA (May 1, 2024) – With recent reports estimating total global damages related to cyberattacks will surpass $9.5 trillion in 2024 and the FBI predicting U.S. losses of more than $10.2 billion, cybercrime has become one of the most...
Read More
Use the US Navy’s MBSE approach to prevent another Baltimore bridge disaster Dr Corren McCoy, chief data strategist at G2 Ops, an engineering and cybersecurity firm, writes for Splash today. Virginia Beach, VA (May 8, 2024) – The containership disaster that caused the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore raises serious questions...
Read More
Executive Insights: Cargo Convo Leaders from Virginia’s maritime sector share their views on offshore wind, supply-chain challenges, workforce recruitment and other factors impacting the industry. Virginia Beach, VA (April 29, 2024) – TRACY GREGORIO CEO, G2 Ops; assistant treasurer, Virginia Maritime Association board Virginia Beach VB: Obviously, military cybersecurity is a major issue these days —...
Read More
Cybersecurity Analytics and Visualization for Warfighting Advantage Virginia Beach, VA (March 27, 2024) – The power balance in modern warfare increasingly hinges on which side has the greater information advantage, which makes cybersecurity an essential priority. Information advantage is best realized when warfighting systems can instantly communicate to orchestrate systems involving personnel and manned and...
Read More
Managing the Complex Ecosystem of a New 5G DoD Smart Warehouse Virginia Beach, VA (December 11, 2023) – 5G technology enables many new applications across commercial sectors, government and our military. This latest wireless platform is expected to power autonomous vehicles, smart cities, remote healthcare, next-generation agriculture and more.    The Defense Department’s FutureG Office within...
Read More
Use MBSE to Optimize Systems Virginia Beach, VA (November 30, 2023) – As infrastructures increase in complexity to become integrated “systems of systems” that include components created and managed by different entities, ensuring their reliability, availability, and overall operational resilience becomes more challenging. The challenge is spreading across industry and public infrastructure with the arrival...
Read More
Proceedings Podcast: Deploy with Dogs Virginia Beach, VA, November 9, 2023 –   For the Podcast visit – Proceedings Podcast: Deploy with Dogs   Bill Hamblet talks with retired Navy Captain John P. Cordle and retired Commander Bob Alpigini about their experiences deploying with dogs on their crew and how dogs can improve crew morale....
Read More
Lead at the Top of Your Game Podcast – Cybersecurity Roadmaps: The Life Support for Companies with Tracy Gregorio Virginia Beach, VA, October 24, 2023 –   For the Podcast visit – Lead at the Top of Your Game Podcast – Cybersecurity Roadmaps: The Life Support for Companies with Tracy Gregorio   IN THIS EPISODE...
Read More
Disrupt your Now – Adapting Your Experience Across Industries: Tracy Gregorio Virginia Beach, VA, September 5, 2023 –   For the Podcast visit – Disrupt your Now – Adapting Your Experience Across Industries: Tracy Gregorio   If you’re tired of your industry but overwhelmed at the thought of trying to switch to a new one,...
Read More