Last month I attended the Joint Working IEEE/IFIP Conference on Software Architecture and European Conference on Software Architecture (WICSA/ECSA 2009).
This was the eighth WICSA offering in a series of conferences beginning in 1999. A good summary of the journey the work in architecture has taken over the years is contained in a paper by Paul Clements and Mary Shaw on The Golden Age of Software Architecture. Paul initially put forth these ideas during a panel at WICSA 2005 that marked the 10 year anniversary of the first International Software Architecture Workshop (ISAW-1) and the 10th anniversaries of the IEEE TSE and IEEE Software special issues on software architectures. Another good summary can be found in a paper that came out at the same time on The Past, Present, and Future for Software Architecture by members of the IFIP Working Group on Software Architecture, who also support the WICSA conference.
I have been involved with WICSA since its inception. It is one of my favorites due to its unique nature as a working conference, the mix of research and practice, and the sense of community among the 100 plus attendees. At WICSA this year, the emphasis was on the relationship between software architecture and “higher” level concerns such as systems of systems, enterprise architecture, and value of architecture.
The program reflected this emphasis in its series of keynotes. Jaap Schekkerman kicked off the conference with a keynote on Why Business & IT Professionals do not understand each other and how Enterprise Architects can Bridge that Gap. Schekkerman started with the premise that the human brain has two different thinking styles (right brain/left brain). He expanded on the idea to include the thinking styles of software engineers/architects and business people and reflected on how enterprise architects can bridge the gap between both groups. I thought this was an interesting way to approach the problem and complemented the keynote that Eoin Woods gave at SATURN 2008 on Putting Software in its Place: Classifying the Architectural Species where he approached the challenge of bridging from the roles of the different types of architects.
Eoin Woods gave a keynote of Using Design Principles to Unify Architecture and Design. He focused his remarks on the question of how can we avoid conflict and allow enterprise architects, software architects and development teams to work together cooperatively. He explained how the use of design principles are a unifying concept that help these different groups to work together.
Alex Wolf asked the question, Where is software architecture? in his keynote that concluded the conference. This included questions of the sort, What is the current state of ideas in software architecture? What is the right direction to look to find promising new ideas? And, if software architecture is more than just an intellectual exercise, then where, quite literally, is it to be found in modern software systems? He offered three areas for exploration: (1) moving from the notion of a system having a single architecture to having multiple, simultaneous, intersecting, interacting, and maybe even conflicting architectures; (2) shifting the emphasis on architecture as components and connectors to understanding emergent system behaviors and better utilizing techniques such as simulation (based on models) and experimentation (based on implementation); and (3) understanding the incentives to document and discovering architecture in the ways engineers already document using deployment descriptors, manifests, configuration files, and service-level agreements, and so on.
More details of the conference and discussion on the working session topics are available at the conference wiki.
– Robert Nord, SEI