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5.1 Introducing Tactics

What is it that imparts portability to one design, high performance to another, and integrability to a third? The achievement of these qualities relies on fundamental design decisions. We will examine these design decisions, which we call tactics. A tactic is a design decision that influences the control of a quality attribute response. We call a collection of tactics an architectural strategy, which we will treat in Chapter 12. An architectural pattern packages tactics in a fashion that we will describe in Section 5.8.

A system design consists of a collection of decisions. Some of these decisions help control the quality attribute responses; others ensure achievement of system functionality. In this section, we discuss the quality attribute decisions known as tactics. We represent this relationship in Figure 5.1. The tactics are those that architects have been using for years, and we isolate and describe them. We are not inventing tactics here, just capturing what architects do in practice.

Figure 5.1. Tactics are intended to control responses to stimuli.


Each tactic is a design option for the architect. For example, one of the tactics introduces redundancy to increase the availability of a system. This is one option the architect has to increase availability, but not the only one. Usually achieving high availability through redundancy implies a concomitant need for synchronization (to ensure that the redundant copy can be used if the original fails). We see two immediate ramifications of this example.

  1. Tactics can refine other tactics. We identified redundancy as a tactic. As such, it can be refined into redundancy of data (in a database system) or redundancy of computation (in an embedded control system). Both types are also tactics. There are further refinements that a designer can employ to make each type of redundancy more concrete. For each quality attribute that we discuss, we organize the tactics as a hierarchy.

  2. Patterns package tactics. A pattern that supports availability will likely use both a redundancy tactic and a synchronization tactic. It will also likely use more concrete versions of these tactics. At the end of this section, we present an example of a pattern described in terms of its tactics.

We organize the tactics for each system quality attribute as a hierarchy, but it is important to understand that each hierarchy is intended only to demonstrate some of the tactics, and that any list of tactics is necessarily incomplete. For each of the six attributes that we elaborated in Chapter 4 (availability, modifiability, performance, security, testability, and usability), we discuss tactical approaches for achieving it. For each, we present an organization of the tactics and a brief discussion. The organization is intended to provide a path for the architect to search for appropriate tactics.

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