Software Engineering as a Layered Technology
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) defines software engineering as “the application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software; that is, the application of engineering to software.” The most common systematic approach taken is described as “layered.”
What is software engineering as a layered technology? What are the best practices in each layer? How can the layered approach result in success? Read on to find the answers to these questions.
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The 4 Layers of Software Engineering
Layer 1 — Tools
The first layer involves choosing the semi-automated and automated tools that will become the framework for the project. Some examples may include:
- Choosing Microsoft Publisher for web design
- Using Selenium for testing across platforms
- Using an integrated development environment (IDE) for building apps
Of course, the actual operating system may be the biggest choice, but any other tools selected will need to integrate successfully with the OS and with each other.
Layer 2 — Method
The second layer establishes the methods of developing the software. This includes any technical knowledge and resources required for development. Some tasks include choosing methods for:
- Program construction
- Testing and support
It’s good to remember that in the Tools layer, your team will choose the tools you will use for the project, but in the Method layer, you will be choosing how to use the tools.
Layer 3 — Process
Layer three focuses on the framework that needs to be established to deliver software effectively. This layer can be broken down into five sub-layers:
- Communication. Various facts of communication are needed at this point, and in fact, they are critical to success. First, communication with the client is required to understand the needs, demands, criteria, and parameters of the project. Team communication disseminates this knowledge so that everyone is on the same page. Ongoing communication prevents misunderstanding and wasted man-hours.
- Planning. This sub-layer involves making a map or blueprint to break down the process of development and document goals, milestones, and plans.
- Modeling. For this part of the process, developers create a model so the client can visualize the finished product.
- Construction. This sub-layer refers to the actual coding and testing of the product.
- Deployment. This differs from modeling. Rather than just providing the client with a model, the team delivers an actual version of the software for testing, evaluation, and feedback.
Layer 4 — A Quality Focus
At this point, the software is developed and refined to a point, but it is critical to apply quality control to the finished product. Besides testing the end product to ensure that it meets the client’s specifications, it also needs real-world testing to determine how efficient, usable, and reusable it will be, and it needs to explore how many resource maintenance will require. If it is replacing an older software or platform, quality control will ensure the new software will meet the needs.
Why Use the Layered Approach?
Laying out the tools, methods, and processes from the start of the software engineering process and then communicating these decisions to the development team allows clients, project managers, and team members to periodically test the quality and usability of the end product. The layered approach allows a team to deliver even complex software on budget and on time.
Benefits of Software Engineering as a Layered Technology
Since software demands are getting more complex, the layered approach offers some important advantages and benefits:
- Better decision-making. The decisions outlined in each layer provide a structure for the whole project, unifying collaboration and problem-solving.
- Early error detection. The layered approach lends itself to identifying and solving errors early in the project.
- Ease of configuration and maintenance. Helpful feedback, timely testing, and constant communication help to make the end project easy to configure and maintain.
The four layers are connected, and each layer’s success depends on the completion of the previous layer. This strategy helps to bring projects in on time and budget, leading to satisfied clients and software that performs to the needs and expectations of users.
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