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Fri, 2008-May-30

The Process View

This is part three in a series that checkpoints my evolving understanding of for architectural descriptions. I have already provided a description of the Logical View. This view captured End-user Functionality in a process based more deeply in Systems Engineering than in Software Engineering. Today I cover the Process View and its links into the Development View.

Let's revisit the set of views as a whole:

4+1 Views Diagram

We can see the Logical View tracing independently to the Process and Development views. Each of these views then traces independently to Deployment. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to make this work for me, from a UML purist and a tooling perspective. I finally settled on a slightly different approach based on .

I have ended up including the final set of components in each of the "design" views. The same set of components appear in the Process, Development, and Deployment (Physical) Views. This achieves the goal of relating different design views together. It also fits with the ideas in the UML Superstructure specification:

The component concept addresses the area of component-based development and component-based system structuring, where a component is modeled throughout the development life cycle and successively refined into deployment and run-time.

The process view I came up with is based around a UML component diagrams, where components from the upcoming development view are show assembled into running processes. This suits the kinds of designs I am doing. It may need tweaking to suit your own needs.

Let's dive into an example with a quick review the logical view functions:

Logical View Functions

I have elaborated on the logical view functions based on the process decomposition as follows:

Process View Main

The logical functions of Sales, Inventory, Shares and Tax Reporting are still present. New are the Web Browser and General Ledger packages. These packages are the result of design decisions in implementing each function. Let's look at Sales:


This diagram captures the whole Sales function, a theme I will follow throughout this and subsequent views. The constant relationship to the Logical View helps establish the link between requirements and all aspects of design. The Sales Ledger Updates interface is still present from the Logical View. This is served by the Sales Manager component in the identically named process. A Web Browser is used as part of the HMI, and General Ledger is used as part of the Historical Sales Register.

The Sales Ledger Updates interface is confronting right up front. Am I not a advocate? Isn't defining an interface like this against the principles of REST? Well, no. I fully expect this to be a REST interface. However, I am approaching this design from the customer focused logical perspective. From this angle, the most important thing to know is what information is transferred. An Interface Control Document will be required to identify the set of URLs that Sales Manager provides, and specify exactly which REST operations are necessary for each URL.

On the other hand, we could easily make the design decision at this point that the interface will not be based on REST. It could be a less constrained SOA. It is for this reason that I feel I can talk about REST being a constrained subset of SOA, part of the SOA family, or "SOA done right". At this point in the design process SOA and REST are indistinguishable.

The General Ledger is the next thing that jumps out. That wasn't in the logical view. There was no requirement for a General Ledger. Instead, Sales was supposed to make data available to Tax Reporting for processing. Here I have used my design experience to say that we should have a General Ledger (a summary record of any type of financial transaction). There is no point requiring the processes of Sales, Inventory and Shares to appear as part of the Tax Reporting function. The General Ledger allows us to put these functions at arm's length from each other.

The Web Browser is fairly obvious, but looking at Sales Manager: Why haven't we decomposed it further?

The answer is that in this case I want to give the developer of this service maximum flexibility in how they implement it. If there were a library that is common to other functions it would need to appear (which begs the question of why there are no such libraries... have we missed something?). Internal structure of a process that has no need for Intellectual Property separation or for other forms of separation might as well stay part of the same component.


Inventory follows a similar pattern to Sales. However, we do have two distinct GUIs identified the logical view. It makes sense to keep these separate, because they have quite different usage profiles. I have decided to use a thick client approach, here, rather than a Web Browser. Part of the overall Inventory HMI is a scanner, and the thick client grants me better access to the scanner's feature set than the browser would afford.

The obvious design question arising from this diagram is how Stocktake and Inventory Scanning GUIs coexist within the same process without any apparent coordination whatsoever. Have we missed a navigation GUI that allows us to select one mode or another? Should they simply be in different processes? Do they need a common library of any kind to communicate with Inventory Manager or drive the scanner?


Here I show the interior detail of a process. The Portfolio Manager is constrained by this design to follow a Model-View-Controller approach internally. The Views are fed to a Web Browser, or to the General Ledger by export. The Model is updated by its HMI, or from the Stock Quote Client driven by Periodic Execution. All of this is coordinated through the Portfolio Manager.

Tax Reporting

Tax Reporting extracts data from the General Ledger using a Reports Engine, and again uses the Web Browser for final display. The Tax Reports give me the opportunity to show a software component that is really simple configuration data. It is clearly separate from the Reports Engine, and uses a dependency relationship on the engine. The dependency direction could be viewed in either direction, however it is easier to trace requirements to a lower level with the arrow as stated. This diagram says that the Tax Reports use the Reports Engine to do their job, as opposed to the other way around. That means that we can talk about the Tax Reports as having to achieve certain GAAP requirements while leaving the Reports Engine itself with fairly generic requirements such as "must be able to query SQL".

General Ledger Web Browser

The final images are fairly boring, just to show that the packages we discovered in our journey through the Process View will generally get their own diagrams and description. You could show the processes of components they connect to, but that information should already be present elsewhere. These non-functional packages will be flowed through the Development and Deployment (Physical) Views in due course.

You could argue that the inclusion of components the in above Process View means that there is really no design left for the other views. You would be right. The main objectives of this architectural description are met: To define the set of components and interfaces in the architecture. The subsequent views are relatively boring, compared to the exciting leap from systems-based logical to software-based process views. However, they each bring their own charm and provide useful checkpoints to discover flaws in your architecture.

I suppose another question-mark at this point is the detail of the internal interfaces between software components. I have identified links, but not tried to establish a functional baseline for these links. For this we would likely need to go through a round of requirements allocation and decomposition and follow the process of the logical view again. I defer the specific work on functional interfaces to the next level of design document down.