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4.2. Functionality

Functionality is the ability of the system to do the work for which it was intended. Of all of the requirements, functionality has the strangest relationship to architecture.

First of all, functionality does not determine architecture. That is, given a set of required functionality, there is no end to the architectures you could create to satisfy that functionality. At the very least, you could divide up the functionality in any number of ways and assign the subpieces to different architectural elements.

In fact, if functionality were the only thing that mattered, you wouldn’t have to divide the system into pieces at all; a single monolithic blob with no internal structure would do just fine. Instead, we design our systems as structured sets of cooperating architectural elements—modules, layers, classes, services, databases, apps, threads, peers, tiers, and on and on—to make them understandable and to support a variety of other purposes. Those “other purposes” are the other quality attributes that we’ll turn our attention to in the remaining sections of this chapter, and the remaining chapters of Part II.

But although functionality is independent of any particular structure, functionality is achieved by assigning responsibilities to architectural elements, resulting in one of the most basic of architectural structures.

Although responsibilities can be allocated arbitrarily to any modules, software architecture constrains this allocation when other quality attributes are important. For example, systems are frequently divided so that several people can cooperatively build them. The architect’s interest in functionality is in how it interacts with and constrains other qualities.

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