Apache Web Server: Applying Lessons from Physical Architecture to Enable Systems to Thrive

By William T. Schiano, David J. Yates and Leslie J. Waguespack.

Published by The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Apache web server is one of the most successful software products in history. The architecture of Apache has been a primary driver of this success. To understand what has made Apache thrive, and to learn from its success, we turn to lessons gleaned from physical architecture. Christopher Alexander distilled architectural quality into fifteen properties, the combination of which determines whether the architecture will exhibit wholeness, or life. Waguespack has applied Alexander’s theory to articulate fifteen corresponding properties of modeling and information systems that determine whether an information system will have sufficient functionality and strength to thrive. We first explain Apache’s success over time through the application of these properties. We then explore how organizations can emulate this success in their own information systems by managing the portfolio of properties. Linking information systems properties to desirable business outcomes to create a synergy between design goals and business requirements is critical to success. For a system to serve the needs of a business, its design and implementation should not only accommodate but facilitate change. We argue that facilitating change amplifies, not obviates, the need for great architecture. Applying the lessons from physical architecture to enable systems to thrive thus improves both system agility and business agility.

Keywords: Alignment, Architecture, Design, Functionality, Strength, Business Outcomes, Information Systems, Software Engineering, Thriving Systems

The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 2014, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 751.547KB).

Dr. William T. Schiano

Professor, Department of Computer Information Systems, Bentley University, Waltham, MA, USA

Bill Schiano is Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University. In 2000, Bill served as President of thoughtbubble productions, a New York based new media company founded in 1995, helping secure an investment from The Formula Group in November 2000. Before joining thoughtbubble, Bill was a Research Affiliate at CSC Index Research and Advisory Services. Bill has conducted extensive research and published several articles and case studies on the role of technology in retail and service industries. His current research focuses on the role and management of information systems within organizations faced with outsourcing and financial challenges. Bill’s consulting centers around the strategic use of information technology and the management of information systems departments and personnel. Dr. Schiano has an AB in Economics from Williams College and Doctorate in Information Systems from Harvard Business School.

Dr. David J. Yates

Associate Professor, Department of Computer Information Systems, Bentley University, Waltham, MA, USA

David Yates is Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University. David’s research areas include computer networking, data communications, sensor networks, embedded systems, and operating systems. Before joining Bentley, David held research and academic positions at the University of Massachusetts and Boston University. His work has been published and presented at international symposiums and conferences, and appeared in refereed journals. In the corporate arena, he was a co-founder and vice president of software development at InfoLibria—a startup that grew to become a leading provider of hardware and software for building content distribution networks before it was acquired. With various colleagues, he holds several patents for processes and systems related to computer networking, content management, and mobile computing. Dr. Yates holds a PhD and MSc from the University of Massachusetts and a BSc from Tufts University.

Dr. Leslie J. Waguespack

Professor, Department of Computer Information Systems, Bentley University, Waltham, MA, USA

Dr. Waguespack is Professor of Computer Information Systems at Bentley University, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1984. Les joined Bentley after four years on the computer science faculty at Louisiana State University. He holds BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in computer science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with research in information systems and computer architecture. As a United States Air Force officer, he served five years as a systems architect at the Air Force Manpower and Personnel Center designing and implementing decision support and worldwide information retrieval applications. His work has been presented at international symposiums and conferences, and published in refereed journals. Thriving Systems Theory and Metaphor-Driven Modeling appears as a volume published by Springer-Verlag. He has also consulted for IT, medical, financial, and not-for-profit corporations. He teaches systems analysis, data management, software project management and object-oriented systems engineering. His research interests include object oriented modeling and systems engineering and the nature of design quality in physical architecture and systems.