Systems architecture

A system architecture or systems 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 comprise system components, the expand 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]


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

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 comprising 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.

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 CHI; 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:[12]


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.


Several types of systems architectures (underlain by the same fundamental principles[13]) have been identified as follows:[14]

See also


  1. Hannu Jaakkola 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. From ANSI/IEEE 1471-2000.
  5. From the Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute.
  6. From The Human Engineering Home Page's Glossary.
  7. From OPEN Process Framework (OPF) Repository.
  8. From The National Center for Education Statistics glossary.
  9. TOGAF
  10. From IEEE 1220-1998 as found at their glossary.
  11. TOGAF
  12. The Method Framework for Engineering System Architectures, Donald Firesmith et al., 2008
  13. The fundamental principles of Systems Architecture, by Boris Golden
  14. The Art of Systems Architecture, Mark Maier and Eberhardt Rechtin, 2nd ed 2002
  15. Choosing A Strategic Systems Architecture, by Brad Day


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