10 Common Software Architecture Patterns: Expert Guide

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How to

Did you know that before starting a software development project, an architect needs to pick the software architecture for it? This is a common best practice in the tech industry that allows teams to make the most out of the software and create a better experience for users. 

Choosing a software architecture, in essence, means choosing its architecture pattern determining how software functionalities will be arranged together with business logic. Software architecture patterns have become more important in the past few years because they’re so handy in designing high-quality applications. 

What are the most common architectural patterns in use today? Here’s a high-level view of the ten most popular choices among software architects and their advantages, challenges, and use cases.

What is an architectural pattern?

An architectural pattern is a method of arranging functionality blocks to address specific requirements or meet the goals of the software under development. Teams can use patterns at the level of software, system, or the entire enterprise. 

A good pattern expression tells you how to use it, when to use it, and what trade-offs you stand to make there. We can also characterize patterns according to the type of solution they address (for example, structural or behavioral patterns).

10 popular software architecture patterns

1. Layered pattern

The layered architecture pattern helps to structure software made up of many smaller tasks. Each layer provides services to the next higher layer. The most commonly found 4 layers of a general information system are as follows:

  • Presentation layer (also known as the UI layer)
  • Application layer (the service layer)
  • Business logic layer (the domain layer)
  • Data access layer (the persistence layer)

You’ll often find the layered architecture pattern in desktop applications and e-commerce web applications.

The advantage of the layered pattern is the layering that makes standardization easier. Multiple higher layers can use one lower layer, and you can apply changes to one layer without affecting other layers. But this pattern definitely doesn’t apply to all executing business logic scenarios.

2. Client-server pattern

Many web applications like banking apps or email are based on the client/server model. In this type of environment, we break the application into two parts: a server that runs continuously and clients that request services from the server and display their results. 

However, such architecture patterns usually handle requests in separate threads on the server, which adds overhead. 

3. Broker pattern

Architects use broker architecture patterns when they structure software systems with decoupled components. Such software components interact with each other by remote service invocations. A broker component is responsible for communication among components, and servers publish their capabilities (services and characteristics) to a broker. 

Next, the client requests a service from the broker, and the broker redirects the client to a suitable service from its registry. You’ll find this pattern in message broker solutions such as Apache ActiveMQ, Apache Kafka, and RabbitMQ.

The undeniable advantage of this pattern is that it allows us to dynamically change, relocate, add or delete objects. This makes distribution more transparent. Note that this requires you to standardize service descriptions.

4. Master-slave pattern

The master/slave software architecture pattern is a network in which one computer acts as the primary controller for other computers (slaves) that run the same program. In this configuration, all computers can share data with one another simultaneously.

This controversially named patter is often used in database replication where the “master” database is considered to be the authoritative source, with “slave” databases synchronized with it. Another common use case for master/slave is a computer system where the bus has peripherals connected to it (these are master and slave drives)

Architects use this pattern because it comes with high accuracy – the service is executed by different slaves, with various implementations. 

However, you get no shared state here since the slaves are isolated. If you’re building a real-time system, the latency in the communication between the master and slaves might become an issue. Also, only problems that can’t be decomposed can use this pattern.

5. Pipe-filter pattern

The pipe-filter pattern can be used to structure a system that processes data. In this pattern, each processing step is contained within a filter component. The data to be processed flows through the pipes connected to the filter components – you can use this for buffering or synchronization. 

These software architecture patterns are a perfect match for software systems where the input and output are based on streams. The flyers can start computing whenever they receive data. A good use case of this pattern is compilers. The consecutive filters perform lexical analysis, parsing, semantic analysis, and code generation. Bioinformatics workflows can benefit from this pattern as well. 

A system built on the basis of this pattern comes with more advantages. Adding filters is easy, and they’re all reusable, which means that you can build various pipelines just by recombining the set of filters you already have. 

But this comes at a price. The slowest filter process will limit the efficiency of your entire system. And you’ll be facing data transformation overhead when it moves between filters.

6. Event-bus pattern

This pattern primarily deals with messages and has 4 major components:

  • message source, 
  • message listener, 
  • channel,
  • distribution bus. 

Sources publish messages to particular channels on a distribution bus. Listeners subscribe to particular channels and are notified of messages that are published to one of those channels.

This software architecture pattern is commonly used in notification services. You can easily add new publishers, subscribers, and connections in an event-driven architecture. It’s a good match for distributed systems. However, scalability might present a challenge. That’s because all the messages will be traveling through the same event bus. 

7. Peer-to-peer pattern

Peers are components that can help each other in a connected system. Peers may act as a client (requesting services from other peers) and as a server (providing services to other peers). But that’s not everything. A peer can even act as both and change its role dynamically. 

This architectural pattern is used in file-sharing networks like G2, multimedia protocols like P2PTV, and in crypto products such as Bitcoin.

No wonder – this pattern is perfect for decentralized computing. It’s also scalable and reliable when it comes to computing resources, easily mitigating the risk of a node failing. However, since nodes cooperate voluntarily, you get no guarantees of service. The performance will also depend on the number of nodes. And finally, ensuring security might be tricky here.

8. Blackboard pattern

The blackboard pattern, also known as the “knowledge in the head” technique, consists of three main components: 

  • a structured global memory containing objects from the solution space; 
  • specialized modules that have their own representation; 
  • and a control component that selects, configures, and executes modules. 

All components have access to the blackboard. The knowledge source produces new data objects that are added to the blackboard. It can look for particular kinds of data on the blackboard and find them by pattern matching.

This software architecture pattern has a few common use cases including  speed recognition, vehicle identification, tracking, and sonar signals interpretation.

The key advantage of these architecture patterns is that adding new applications is easy. So is extending the structure of the data space – but modifying it is pretty hard since all the applications are affected. Also, this pattern might need synchronization and access control.

9. Model-view-controller pattern

This pattern, also known as the MVC pattern, divides an interactive application into 3 parts. The model part contains core functionality and data, the view displays information to the user (with more than one view possible), and the controller handles input from the user. 

This is done to separate the internal representation of data from how that data is presented to and accepted by a user. The pattern decouples components, so efficient code reuse is an option. 

Such architecture patterns are often used in web applications – frameworks such as Django and Rails use it. The primary benefit of the model-view-controller pattern lies in getting multiple views of the same model that can be connected or disconnected at runtime. However, the pattern may increase the complexity of your solution – for example, leading to many updates for user actions.

10. Interpreter pattern

This is a pattern for designing components that interpret software written in a particular language. It mainly specifies how to evaluate lines of code or expressions. The basic idea is to have a class for each symbol in the language. 

This pattern is used in database query languages such as SQ and in languages used to describe communication protocols. 

The pattern opens the door to dynamic behavior and easy end-user programmability. It’s also quite flexible because replacing an interpreted program is easier. However, expect an interpreted language to be slower than a compiled one.

Wrap up

We hope that this list of the different software architecture patterns used in software development helps you in building your software architecture projects. Are you looking for skilled software architects to help you pick the right pattern or develop an architecture for your solution? Get in touch with us; we have talented software architects on board who can tackle any challenge. 


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