Engineering the Future of Software
November 13–14, 2016: Training
November 14–16, 2016: Tutorials & Conference
San Francisco, CA

Architecture without an end state

Michael Nygard (Cognitect)
9:00am–5:00pm Sunday & Monday, November 13-14
Location: Olympic
Average rating: ****.
(4.40, 5 ratings)

Prerequisite knowledge

  • Familiarity with basic architecture principles, such as system boundary and separation of concerns

Materials or downloads needed in advance

  • A laptop with administrator privileges and the ability to run local virtual machines
  • Docker installed

What you'll learn

  • Learn how to design systems that can evolve over time in the face of technological and business change
  • Understand when the “single system of record” pattern applies and when it does not
  • Learn how to combine microservices with legacy systems
  • Learn to make your systems glide smoothly from web to mobile to chat apps
  • Find new ways to separate concerns for better information hiding
  • Learn about ways to isolate information to allow independent change
  • Learn how to build systems in simpler pieces that can be recombined and recomposed to enable new business capabilities, all without running afoul of YAGNI
  • Know why aiming for the “end state” never works and what to do about it

Participants should plan to attend both days of this 2-day training. Training passes do not include access to tutorials on Monday.


Architecture plans in enterprises tend to resemble late-night infomercials. First, you see a person or system that seems incapable of survival—a situation that can be immediately rectified if you just buy into the product. (One popular infomercial shows incompetent people mangling tomatoes transitioning into Ginsu-wielding sous chefs; the architecture pitch starts with hideous complexity then moves to clean orthogonal box diagrams.) Operators are always standing by.

Real architecture never reaches that blissful end state. Something always interrupts the program: businesses change, technology changes, or funding dries up. What would happen if you did reach the end state, anyway? Is IT in the company done? Of course not.

The truth is that there is no end state. We must all learn to build systems that evolve and grow. We need to stop aiming for the end state and understand that change is continuous. We cannot predict the details, but we can learn the general patterns.

Michael Nygard demonstrates how to design and architect systems that admit change—bending and flexing through time. Using a blend of information architecture, technical architecture, and some process change, Michael walks you through examples of rigid systems to show how to transform them into more maneuverable architecture.

This workshop includes both teaching and hands-on design sessions. Design sessions will be paper and whiteboard work in small groups. You’ll work on real problems drawn from a variety of industries. If you’re a developer or architect working with medium to large architectures and building applications in the context of existing systems or transitioning to new systems, this is the tutorial for you.

Day 1


  • Information hiding
  • Decision hiding
  • Separation of concerns
  • Architectural styles

Architectural patterns

  • Layers
  • Pipes and filters
  • Broker
  • Proxy
  • Components and glue
  • Interpreter
  • Microkernel
  • Event stream/CQRS
  • Command

Application architecture

  • Consumer-driven contracts
  • Segregated interfaces
  • Bounded context
  • Layers redux
  • Hexagonal architecture

Day 2

Living in complex systems

  • Organizations as complex systems
  • Local viewpoints
  • Local optimization, global deoptimization
  • Second-order effects, the law of unintended consequences

Team-scale autonomy

  • Safety in systems
  • Independent action
  • “Without permission”

Evolutionary architectures

  • Microservices
  • Message-driven systems
  • Microkernels

Information architecture

  • Identifiers and their many issues
  • Single system of record
  • Augment upstream
  • Contextualize downstream
  • Pluralism
  • Open-world systems

High-leverage architecture

  • Data/metadata unification
  • Rules-based systems
  • Generalized minimalism
Photo of Michael Nygard

Michael Nygard


Michael Nygard is an architect at Cognitect, the company behind Clojure, ClojureScript, Pedestal, and Datomic. Michael has been a professional programmer and architect for over 15 years. In that time, he has delivered systems to the US government, the military, and the banking, finance, agriculture, and retail industries, and his work has spanned domains as diverse as B2B exchanges, retail commerce sites, travel and leisure sites, an information brokerage, and applications for the military and intelligence communities. Along the way, Michael has shared his painfully won experience by mentoring, writing, and speaking. Michael contributed to the O’Reilly book 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know and authored the best seller Release It! Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software.

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Picture of Aaron Maxwell
11/12/2016 10:55am PST

Is there a docker image(s) we can pre-pull before the workshop starts, to minimize strain on the wifi?