Embedded systems encapsulate the control aspects, computing, and also communication among different logical units. And for this, they manage multiple tasks within ultra-fine timelines while interacting with various sensors through on-chip/on-board peripheral devices and often with various processors over different networks.

This performance of the embedded system banks on the computing platform, inputs & outputs, and most importantly the software architecture.

Software architecture is the base of the system embodied within the components and their interconnection with each other, and the principles guiding its design and development.

Every embedded system must have a software architecture that can guide the developers. But the path to successful and efficient software architecture is never a cakewalk!

There are several common pitfalls that stymied the whole system and created a stalemate, which is hard as hell to decode and conquer.

In this article, team InSemi throws light on the 5 major pitfalls and suggests solutions to avoid them and overcome the impasse fast. So let’s delve into the details!

1. Not considering architectural blueprint before code

A common idea vagabonding around the development teams is that software architecture need not be considered before the code- let it be an evolutionary concept for later to be envisaged!

See, there is no magic that will evolve the architecture later to something scalable, reusable, and of very high quality later on.

And this concept has evolved from the misinterpretation of the Agile Development Methodologies. In Agile development, cross-functional teams analyze the situation and flexibly adapt themselves to the requirement.

But this cannot be the case here. Software architecture is a blueprint for helping design, development, and testing teams to plan their way of action to build a robust product with minimum iterations. And the biggest advantage of an efficient architecture is that it is flexible to changing needs. The developer teams working in advance on the architecture are more likely to succeed with their products.

2. Not being data-driven

The most successful principle in ideating & developing software architecture is leveraging the power of data. Data is the asset with which the system must be designed to manage, and it must dictate the design from inception. Data might come into the system in the varied form to develop the inputs. Those data-based inputs are then sorted out, stockpiled, and serve purposefully for outputs from the system.

The data sets will spontaneously direct the software architecture to perform the desideratum and the functional components will fall into the right place. The hardware-independent and easily testable software architecture can be crafted only by following a data-driven strategy.

3. Not efficiently considering response timings

Embedded systems sometimes need to have a real-time response.

While envisaging or developing a flexible and scalable architecture the decisions regarding the impacts of implementation need to be considered first. One might not be able to quantify the response timing completely at the initial architectural phase but the higher-risk areas can be identified and tested as earlier as possible.

Apart from this, developing a task-based architecture is also a challenge. If the developer team is not so proficient with the task-based architecture then the latencies around response timings will be far more common! Most such problems initiate from the poor interaction between the periodic tasks and the interrupts.

A solution to this scenario lies in adopting an event-driven approach in lieu of the time-based one.

4. No feedback loop

While developing the software architecture, teams have a misconception regarding the changeability of the architecture. Many a time codes are written for the architectural changes but never executed! Here the pitfall is the lack of a feedback loop between the architecture and the related implementations.

The personnel responsible for developing the architecture builds it on the notion of what they consider to be the most optimized solution. But they lack complete information. So it is up to the coders to interpret the architects. Coders must inform them about the issues, their findings, and the way to improve the architecture as a whole. If the architects start making the architecture without feedback from coders then the system will proceed in direction of technical issues in long-terms, which hinder the product’s success.

5. Not having an optimal architecture

Unstructured monoliths, layered monoliths, state-driven, micro-service architecture, event-driven…and the list goes on! There can be myriads of software architecture types for embedded applications.

If the architect team picks the type not suitable for the system, then the final product is going to suffer issues regarding scalability, response timings, and many other potential threats.

Several reasons result in the selection of the wrong architecture type. Lack of proficiency in the division might be a cause and sometimes the architects try a new architecture type for the experiment as it has never been used before.

This might be a good idea for diversifying the horizons but the important thing to ensure here is the architecture selected must not cause any complexity or threat potentiality.

Microservice architecture has gained greater popularity these days but if not properly planned it might result in issues regarding response timings.

So the architects, with the data sets and related information, must select the architecture type that will work best for the software. Sometimes, for optimizing the solution, a mix of architectural types might be needed, and the architects must not refrain from this approach.

Winding Up

Architecture for embedded software is the cornerstone of success and a critical design element driving developers to success. The common pitfalls and challenges can be countered by leveraging a mix of software architectures and various design patterns.

After thorough research and discussions with the architects and coders, we came up with the 5 major pitfalls. Pondering about them can make the design process smoother and much more efficient.