Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Layers of a Standard Enterprise Application

In a standard enterprise application which has a database and graphical UI (web or desktop), there are some typical layers which constitute the application. In this article we will mention those layers and give some instructions about them. 

The general diagram is as below:

There are some important properties about that diagram: 
There are vertical and horizontal layers. Vertical layers may be thought as general application service libraries which can paralelly work on all horizontal layers and independent from each other. However, a horizontal layer's subject of interest is only its neighbour (top and bottom) horizontal layers, and they work sequentially from top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. Lastly, user can only interact with topmost horizontal layer. 

Horizontal layers:

  • PresentationEvery enterprise application has a UI, in fact graphical UI. This UI can be web or desktop based, which doesn't matter. The rule is simple. UI takes user action and sends it to the controller. And at the end it shows result taken from controller to the user. UI can be implemented according to MVC, MVP, MVVM or another approach.
  • ControlHandles business logic of the application. Takes info from user and sends it to DB layer (DAO or ORM framework) and vice versa. Abstraction type of controller may vary (a separate control and business layers for example)  according to the application parameters or development patterns (MVC, MVP, MVVM, ...) but the main idea remains the same.
  • Data AccessDatabase handling layer of the application. It may contain entity definitions, ORM framework or DB connection codes having SQL sentences, according to the abstraction decision. Its role is getting data from controller, performing data operation on database and sending results again to controller (if result exists). Database independence is a very important plus for this layer, which brings flexibility.

Vertical layers:

  • SecuritySecurity is a general concept, which includes user authorization, user authentication, user role management, network or SQL injection attack prevention, data recovery etc but we grouped that items generally as "Security". Those issues must be handled for each horizontal layer if you want to have a fully secure software.
  • Logging: Logging is very important for maintenance and reporting in enterprise applications. An easily configurable, parameterized, readable, flexible and correctly implemented logging layer for all horizontal layers is very useful for both developers and users. 
  • i18ni18n (internationalization) brings multiple language support and user interface text changing capability without rebuilding code. It may also have localization property which can handle number, currency and date formatting. So i18n provides flexibility on applications and should not be ignored.
  • Exception Handling: Exception handling may also be included in "Security" or "Logging" layers. We should not use only general exception classes or absorb all exceptions if we want to develop a quality software. We sometimes need our special exception classes with their specific behaviours for better security, logging and application performance.

If you design an architecture which has that layer structure considering software quality factors (which are told here), you will probably have a successful enterprise software application.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

10 Groups of Software Quality Factors That Should Always Be Remembered

Flexibility and Extensibility
Flexibility is the ability of software to add/modify/remove functionality without damaging current system. Extensibility is the ability of software to add functionality without damaging system, so it may be thought as a subset of flexibility. Those functionality changes may occur acoording to changing requirements, or an obligation if development process is one of the iterative methods. Change is inevitable in software development and so, this is one of the most important properties of quality software.

Maintainability and Readability:
Maintainability is a little similar with flexibility but it focuses on modifications about error corrections and minor function modifications, not major functional extensibilities. It can be supported with useful interface definitions, documentations and also self-documenting code and/or code documentation. The more correct and useful documentation exists, the more maintainability can be performed.

Performance and Efficiency:
Performance is mostly about response time of the software. This response time should be in acceptable intervals (e.g. max. a few seconds), and should not increase if transaction count increases. And also, resources are expensive. Efficiency must be supported with resource utilization. As an exaggerated example, ability of performing a simple function only by using a 32 processor machine or 1 TB disk space is not acceptable. Optimal source/performance ratio must be aimed. 

A scalable system responds user actions in an acceptable amount of time, even if load increases. Of course more hardware may be added for handling increasing user transaction, but the architecture should not change while doing this. This is called vertical scalability. Ability of running on multiple, increasing count of machines is multiple processing. If the software can perform that type of processing, this is called horizontal scalability. A preffered scalable system should suit both of these methods.

Availability, Robustness, Fault Tolerance and Reliability:
A robust software should not lose its availabilty even in most failure states. Even if some components are broken down, it may continue running. Besides, even if whole application crashes, it may recover itself using backup hardware and data with fault tolerance approaches. There should always be B and even C, D .. plans. Reliability also stands for the integrity and consistency of the software even under high load conditions. So it is relevant with availability and scalability. An unreliable system is also unscalable.

Usability and Accessability:
User interfaces are the only visible parts of software according to the viewpoint of user. So, simplicity, taking less time to complete a job, fast learnability etc. are very important in this case. The most well known principle for this property is KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Simple is always the best. A usable software should also support different accessibility types of control for people with disabilities.

Platform Compatibility and Portability:
A quality software should run on as much various platforms as it can. So, more people can make use of it. In different contexts we may mention different platforms, this may be OS platforms, browser types etc. And portability is about adapting software that can run on different platforms, for being more platform compatible. In this sense, portability is also related with flexibility.

Testability and Managability:
Quality software requires quality testing. Source code should be tested with the most coverage and with the most efficient testing methods. This can be performed by using encapsulation, interfaces, patterns, low coupling etc. techniques correctly. Besides testability, a qualified software should be manageable after deployment. It may be monitored for e.g. performance or data usage status, or may enable developer to configure system easily. Creating a successful logging system is another very important issue about managability.

Security is a very important issue on software development, especially for web or mobile based ones which may have millions of users with the ability of remote accessing to system. You should construct a security policy and apply it correctly by leaving no entry points. This may include authorization and authentication techniques, network attack protections, data encryption and so on. all possible types of security leaks should be considered, otherwise one day only one attack may crash your whole applicaion and whole company.

Functionality and Correctness:
Functionality (or correctness) is the conformity of the software with actual requirements and specifications. In fact this is the precendition attribute of an application, and maybe not a quality factor but we wanted to point that as the last quality factor, for taking attention: Quality factors are not meaningful when we are talking about unfunctional software. First, perform desired functionality and produce correct software, then apply quality factors on it. If you can perform both paralelly, it is the best.