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Abstracting Away Some Details

The following figure shows the general system architecture of a rotating, ground-based, radar whose mission is to detect and track “air breathing” targets. The chain of specially designed hardware and software subsystems provides radar operators with a 360 degree, real-time, surveillance picture of all the targets that fall within the physical range and elevation coverage capabilities of the Antenna and Transmit/Receive subsystems.

Generic Radar System

The following picture shows the general architecture of a business IT system. Unlike the specialized radar system architecture, this generic IT structure supports a wide range of application domains: insurance, banking, e-commerce, social media, etc.

Generic IT System

To explore the technical similarities/differences between the two platforms, let’s abstract away the details of everything to the left of the Radar Control & Data Processor and stuff them into a box called “Radar Hardware“. We’ll also tuck away the radar’s Communication Gateway functionality by placing it inside the Radar Control & Data Processor:

Business And Radar Archs

Now that we’ve used the power of abstraction to wrestle the original radar system architecture into a form similar to a business IT system, we can reason about some of the differences between the two structures.

Actually, I’m gonna stop here and leave the analysis of the technical similarities and differences as a thought experiment to you, dear reader. That’s because this is one of those posts that took me for freakin’ ever to write. I must have iterated over the draft at least 20 times during the past month. And of course, I had no master plan when I started writing it, so I hope you at least enjoy the pretty pictures.

Categories: technical Tags: ,
  1. charliealfred
    March 31, 2015 at 7:42 am

    BD00. Structure is one consideration in system architecture. Control, collaboration, variation, deployment and others matter too

    If I see two profile pictures of a person taken from 100′ away how confident can I be that they are the same person? I may observe that they are the same gender, similar age, height, and weight. However this is likely insufficient

    • March 31, 2015 at 8:13 am

      No argument here. Ultimately, it’s structure, couplings and behaviors. The purpose of the post was not to cover all aspects of abstraction. It was simply what it was.

  2. charliealfred
    March 31, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Certainly. And my comment was just information. it just seemed that you were writing if two systems were structurally similar (DBMS system | Radar System) then they were not necessarily similar overall, and I was just supporting that premise :-).

    But the premise neither of us will argue is that the Jet’s will be 4th in the AFC East in 2014-15

    • March 31, 2015 at 8:24 am


    • March 31, 2015 at 8:26 am

      My stuff is mostly for entertainment value, perhaps with a sprinkle of truth or knowledge mixed in.

  3. March 31, 2015 at 8:37 am

    So, you’re saying anyone who can hack together a site in PHP can do what you do? (grins, ducks, and runs)

    • March 31, 2015 at 10:57 am

      Yepp. 😬

    • March 31, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Alan Watts billed himself as a “spiritual entertainer”. I bill myself as a “software entertainer”.

  4. March 31, 2015 at 11:16 am


  5. Dave Closs
    April 4, 2015 at 10:44 am

    NavCanada performed this analysis decades ago and so has a country-wide database driven radar and comms infrastructure that the us is only just starting to adopt…



    • April 4, 2015 at 10:58 am

      We may be talking apples and oranges here Dave. Sticking a database of disks or even SSDs in the middle of a live radar data feed from sensor to operator is not conducive to meeting safety critical latency requirements.

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