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What is Computer Architecture?

Computer architecture refers to software standards, hardware instructions and technology infrastructure that defines how computer systems, platforms and programs operate. In other words, computer architecture outlines the system’s design, functionality and compatibility. Creating a computer’s architecture requires IT professionals to first determine the needs of users, technology limitations and process requirements.

Architecture Overview

Almost all modern computers use the Von Neumann architecture model that was created by a mathematician in the 1940’s. This model includes fundamental things like the computer’s CPU, registry, memory, storage, logic unit and input/output (I/O) interface. Most computer’s architecture can be divided into three categories. First, the hardware system includes the CPU, direct memory and data and graphics processors. Second, the Instruction Set Architecture directs the embedded programming language in the CPU.

The ISA’s programming defines the functions and capabilities of the CPU. Common definitions include word size, processor types, memory modes, data formats and user instructions. Third, the micro-architecture is the computer’s international organization that defines data paths, storage, execution and processing. A computer’s architecture may be created and maintained by systems engineers, application architects and software engineers.

Computer Architects

Computer architects oversee the implementation of architecture strategies and policies within companies. They create computer models and standard solutions that save costs, increase capabilities and align with business needs. Their architectural solutions must deliver stability, availability and sustainability. Computer architects may deal with server storage, data backup, virtual recovery and internal applications. In order to produce efficient systems, they must stay up to date on the latest computer, programming and technology trends.

Computer architects formulate strategies that evolve compute architecture, leverage new features, explore new capabilities and improve user friendliness. They may be expected to manage and maintain enterprise-wide architecture patterns, offerings and policies. They may partner with peers and vendors regarding the integration, alignment and convergence of architectural strategies and standards. Computer architects may create communications and presentations that articulate the logic behind programming and production changes.

The Challenge of Architecting

Creating a computer’s architecture, framework and infrastructure can be quite challenging. Computer architects must be able to present and drive the alignment and adoption of system evolution to programmers, engineers, designers and leaders. This means that they must be able to gain support and elicit alignment for project funding, strategies and recommendations. Computer architects may perform root cause analysis to understand and eliminate reoccurring incidents that impact the architectural structure and performance.

Senior computer architects may update, maintain and create system architectures that support product lines and business goals. They may review, modify and approve existing architectural designs through careful comparative research. Senior computer architects may communicate architecture strategies in order to convince executive management, technical teams and third-party vendors. Senior computer architects must have significant experience in the design, development and deployment of enterprise solutions. They should fully understand computer infrastructure, middleware and integration.

Computer architecture involves the broad infrastructure of modern PCs. All modern computers, mobile devices and similar technology rely on this architectural knowledge. Anyone who wants to become a computer architect should consider becoming an electrical, software or computer hardware engineer.

See also: 20 Best Online Schools for Computer Science 2017