Thursday, February 17, 2011

Types versus architecture

There are three invariants in a software system:
  • Code
  • Types
  • The architecture
One old rule is: more types, less code. This is because the less "sophisticated" type provides less "support" to the code, and therefore you need more code to keep things in control. Another way to put this is that the invariants provided by the use of more types allows the code to be more simple.
For example, long ago I experienced this type of code simplification with the use of the record/struct moving to C and Pascal from early basic and FORTRAN (and assembly). And again with classes and objects moving to C++. And again with variant types and later monads with functional programming.

Another rule is: better architecture, less code. I have repeated this mantra for many years and yet thinking about it, I am not even very sure I have a good definition for architecture. I use to say: 'architecture is what does not change in the system'. Now maybe I should say: 'it's what does not change and what is not a type'. This then begs the question: 'If I can capture more of my system in its types, does that make the architecture more simple'?

I am starting to get the feeling that architecture is a little bit like dynamic typing: you use it when you do not know better. I am tempted to try to introduce a new rule: better typing, less architecture". I will see if I can make that rule stick!

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