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How to choose the right architecture for Mobile App Development?

SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

The thing about building applications for mobile is that resources are scarce. Software meant for a PC can afford to be bloated and inefficient, but mobile apps have to keep things lean and tight.

This is where architecture patterns come in.

Just like traditional architecture decides the layout of a house before it is even built, mobile app architecture can help you design well-structured applications that scale easily.

Furthermore, adhering to a tried and tested architecture reduces the chances of bugs and complications holding up the process, greatly boosting the development speed.

But which mobile app development architecture is the right choice for you? Let’s find out.

 

01
Layered Architecture

The most common form of software architecture seen in the IT industry is the layered architecture. Simply put, it organizes the application into functional ‘layers’ that are maintained separately, allowing for testing and modifications on one layer without impacting the performance of another.

This in turn works very well with the traditional software development cycle, with the flow of code cascading down from the presentation layer to the database itself.

Great for
Applications that form the backbone of enterprise ecosystems. Basically, software that needs to be developed quickly but not modified too frequently once deployed.

Not suited for
Mobile apps meant to scale. Thanks to the interlocking layers this architecture is built upon, scaling these apps is difficult, not to mention resource intensive.

Pros
● Applicable to a wide range of use-cases
● Easy to develop and maintain

Cons
● Does not scale well
● Modifications to the application require a complete re-deployment

02
Event-Driven Architecture

A relatively new architecture driven by the surge in the popularity of Javascript, the event-driven mobile app architecture is based on asynchronous systems. Each event – such as clicking on a particular button – is handled with its own dedicated code, leading to a very reactive mobile application.

This makes this architecture a perfect fit for dynamic apps that need to interact with the user quickly, apart from paving the way for a distributed development process with little coupling between different modules.

Great for
Highly dynamic applications that must react to data in real time. IoT (Internet-of-Things) for example is built entirely on an event-driven architecture.

Not suited for
Complex applications that are heavier on internal processing rather than interactivity.

Pros
● Perfect for asynchronous systems
● Highly scalable

Cons
● Events linked to multiple modules make error handling difficult
● Hard to implement a consistent data structure owing to the large number of independent modules with different needs

03
Microkernel Architecture

The microkernel architecture is designed for applications that can be separated into an essential ‘core’ and a suit of additional features. This paves the way for quick development and release of the basic microkernel offering the fundamental functionality, with periodic release of plugins to extend the application’s capability.

Great for
Mobile apps with a clear demarcation between the core functionality and additional features. Things like web browsers or work scheduling applications are great examples of this.

Not suited for
Applications with highly dependent and interlinked components.

Pros
● Easy to extend without having re-deploy the whole application
● Highly flexible; addons can be swapped anytime to change functionality

Cons
● Managing compatibility for a large number of plugins can make it hard to develop
● Modifying the core kernel requires changing each dependent plugin as well

04
Microservices Architecture

Taking scalability to its logical end, this pattern works by dividing the application into a set of highly localized ‘services’ that perform small, but distinct functions. This microservices architecture is very fault tolerant as no single service is indispensable.

Also, this makes it good at dealing with high-scale situations by just spinning up new instances of the needed services, creating a very efficient and durable application.

Great for
Applications that need to scale intermittently. Cloud services, for example, use microservices architecture to scale up and down on demand.

Not suited for
Mobile apps that are not easily split into distinct services.

Pros
● Can selectively scale parts of the application depending on the requirement instead of the whole app itself
● Multiple programming languages can be used in tandem in the same codebase

Cons
● Development is challenging, requiring the best talent to keep up with the changing technology stack
● Hard to design a consistent data protocol to incorporate the highly diverse services into a seamless application

Final Thoughts
There is no one type of architecture that can be called the definitive ‘best’. Each option is well suited to its own niche, with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The key is to identify your needs and then choose the mobile app development architecture that works the best at fulfilling them.