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Design of specific applications

The requirements phase of the lifecycle was addressed earlier in the requirements engineering section. The design phase is one of the most important phases within the application lifecycle. It ensures that an application is conceived with operability and Application Management in mind. This phase takes the outputs from the requirements phase and turns them into the specification that will be used to develop the application.

The goal for designs should be satisfying the organization’s requirements. Design includes the design of the application itself, and the design of the infrastructure and environment within which the application operates. Architectural considerations are the most important aspect of this phase, since they can impact on the structure and content of both application and operational model. Architectural considerations for the application (design of the Application Architecture) and architectural considerations for the environment (design of the IT Architecture) are strongly related and need to be aligned. Application Architecture and design should not be considered in isolation but should form an overall integrated component of service architecture and design.

Generally, in the design phase, the same models will be produced as have been delivered in the requirements phase, but during design many more details are added. New models include the architecture models, where the way in which the different functional components are mapped to the physical components (e.g. desktops, servers, databases and network) needs to be defined. The mapping, together with the estimated load of the system, should allow for the sizing of the infrastructure required.

Another important aspect of the architecture model is the embedding of the application in the existing environment. Which pieces of the existing infrastructure will be used to support the required new functions? Can existing servers or networks be used? With what impact? Are required functions available in existing applications that can be utilized? Do packages exist that offer the functionality needed or should the functions be built from scratch?

The design phase takes all requirements into consideration and starts assembling them into an initial design for the solution. Doing this not only gives developers a basis to begin working: it is also likely to bring up questions that need to be asked of the customers/users. If possible, application frameworks should be applied as a starting point.

It is not always possible to foresee every aspect of a solution’s design ahead of time. As a solution is developed, new things will be learned about how to do things and also how not to.

The key is to create a flexible design, so that making a change does not send developers all the way back to the beginning of the design phase. There are a number of approaches that can minimize the chance of this happening, including:

  • Designing for management and operational requirements
  • Managing trade-offs
  • Using application-independent design guidelines; using application frameworks
  • Employing a structured design process/manageability checklist.

Design for management and operational requirements means giving management and operational requirements a level of importance similar to that for the functional requirements, and including them as a mandatory part of the design phase. This includes a number of management and operational requirements such as availability, capacity, maintainability, reliability and security. It is now inconceivable in modern application development projects that user interface design (usability requirements) would be omitted as a key design activity. However, many organizations ignore or forget manageability. Details of the necessary management and operational requirements are contained within the SDP and SAC in Appendices A and B.

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