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System architecture: What is it?

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Explore the fundamental concepts of system architecture, including its definition, components, and importance in

With the digital transition, information systems have become one of a company's most valuable resources. But between the multiplication of data, the tangle of flows between applications and the wide variety of infrastructure choices, these IS are increasingly complex. So, for a coherent, global vision of their data, organizations need to put in place a functional, organic system architecture.

What is system architecture?

IS architecture aims to build information system models. The aim is to provide a global, consolidated vision of the organization’s data structure.

To achieve this, system architecture is based on 3 essential elements:

  • Operational vision: this is the objective of the information system.
  • The functional vision: which provides a global understanding of how the IS functions.
  • The organic vision: all the components that enable the IS to function properly, such as hardware, software and human resources.

And there’s a fourth essential element: business needs. System architecture must not only meet these needs at a given moment. It must also adapt over time to the organization’s strategy, processes and technological innovations. In other words, it must be capable of evolving rapidly according to the company’s needs and constraints.

Why is this so important?

With the constant increase in data volumes, the disparity of infrastructure choices, the addition of application bricks, the widespread use of SaaS applications… information systems are becoming more and more complex.

Implementing a system architecture helps to simplify them. Let’s take a look at the benefits:

  • Data understanding: without a clear system architecture, data can become unreadable, costing the company its competitive edge and productivity.
  • Collaboration: the vast majority of organizations still operate in silos, because their information systems are too complex to use globally. Conversely, a system architecture that is comprehensible to all employees facilitates the exchange of relevant information between different departments.
  • Cost control: by continually adapting to the organization’s needs, the information system enables it to reduce costs. Not to mention the savings achieved through greater productivity.
  • Security: the system architecture defines a certain number of standards, particularly in terms of data exchange and transfer.

Ultimately, an efficient IS architecture optimizes the flow of information, and guarantees the uniqueness, comprehensibility and reliability of data.

How to implement a functional architecture?

Definition of requirements and specifications

Implementing an efficient system architecture begins with defining the specifications. This involves identifying all the requirements for designing a high-performance, reliable IS.

To this must be added the specifications that will enable the IS to achieve its objectives. To define these specifications, however, you need to start from the organization’s core business, so as to adapt them to its real needs and strategic objectives. In other words, it’s not the technical constraints that must guide the organization’s activity, but the business needs that define the system architecture. It’s a top-down approach.

That said, it is also essential that the information system integrates perfectly with the organization’s environment (the applications and tools used internally, the processes in place…). This is made possible by a SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) approach, in which all services are standardized and reusable within the architecture itself and all other applications in the ecosystem.

As such, the system architect will establish links between business needs, applications and technical constraints, in order to design a coherent, high-performance IS.

Modeling the target IS

Once the requirements and specifications have been defined, the architect maps the current structure and identifies areas for improvement in order to design the target information system.

For example, he will need to answer the following questions:

  • How are data modeled?
  • How does it circulate?
  • What malfunctions and steps need to be optimized?
  • How can exchanges be improved?

Good to know: it’s essential to continuously map the IS structure. This systemic modeling ensures that companies don’t end up with an obsolete architecture unable to meet new needs.

Join DataScientest to learn how to design a high-performance system architecture

Implementing a functional, reliable and high-performance system architecture is only possible with specific skills. That’s precisely why we offer you our data engineer training course. You’ll learn the fundamentals of IS architecture (programming languages, databases, Big Data, data science, etc.), with practical exercises to get you up and running by the end of the course.

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