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Deployment Diagrams Explained in Detail, With Examples

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Software engineering is more than just writing code and deploying it as software solutions. Lots of activities help ensure that users get the best software solutions. For instance, developers need to test how some software solutions interact with hardware and other software. 

This is where deployment diagrams come in. They help developers visualize how their software interacts with hardware and other software. Why bother doing this? Because it helps you and your team members notice previously unseen connections or loopholes and resolve them. 

In this article, we’ll look at what deployment diagrams are. Also, you’ll get to know how a deployment diagram works and why it works the way it does. And of course, you’ll see examples of deployment diagrams and think about some factors related to drawing one yourself. 

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What Are Deployment Diagrams, Exactly?

Deployment diagrams are a special kind of diagram captured in the Structural Diagram Category of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagram types. In addition, they’re useful in describing the architectural framework of a software solution. The solution may be a website or a software package. 

The diagram shows what hardware and software are necessary if you want to deliver the intended solution. It also shows how everything connects to form the system that you’ll use for delivery. 

Understanding the Makeup of a Deployment Diagram

A deployment diagram, just like every diagram, has some basic features. These features are called deployment diagram notations.  Let’s look at them one by one. 

Node

A node is the main tool in the deployment diagram. It describes the execution of the codes and how the system components interact with one another. A node can be a software or hardware object. Nodes house and execute the artifacts. Mostly, a node is a physical entity.

Nodes have two main types: 

  • A node can be a physical machine that performs the code computations. This type of node is usually a device, such as a personal computer or an external server.
  • A node can be an environment that performs the code execution. People often call this an execution environment node. An example is the JVM or Java virtual machine.

There’s also a special kind of node called node as a container. This type of node houses other nodes. 

Artifact

This notation depicts the real software product the developers are working on. The symbol for an artifact is a rectangle with the label “artifact” and the artifact name. They don’t stand on their own; instead, they’re generally deployed on a node. 

When an artifact name is underlined, that’s called an artifact instance. 

You can use artifacts to represent… 

  • an executable file
  • a framework used during software development
  • a source file
  • an output file
  • documentation

Component

This notation represents other software elements present in the system. The symbol for the component notation is a rectangle with two tabs. For instance, a bank application running on an Android device is a component of the node (Android device).  

Interface

This notation indicates a contractual relationship between two elements. Its symbol is a circle with a connector line.

What else is it really important to know? Let’s look at some terms that are basic features of a deployment diagram. 

  • Stereotype: People use this to depict a device that’s contained within the node. To define a stereotype, put the name into double arrow brackets. For example, the stereotype for Java Machine is <<Java Machine>>.
  • Association: An association is a line that indicates the type of communication that exists between nodes.
  • Dependency: This shows which node or component depends on other nodes or components. To define a dependency, use a broken or dashed line that ends with an arrow.

Why Use Deployment Diagrams?

Every tool in software engineering is there for a reason and solves a problem. Here are some reasons people use deployment diagrams and why they’re helpful: 

  • Deployment diagrams help DevOps engineers, software release managers, and other concerned IT professionals visualize the makeup of a system. When they can see the hardware and software of the system, they understand how to deploy the software solution physically.
  • These diagrams showcase the execution architecture of a system. This includes both the hardware and the software execution environments and their connecting factors.
  • Deployment diagrams help show how hardware and software interact with each other to work properly.
  • To a large extent, these diagrams perfectly describe how the software fits into and interacts with a hardware system.
  • Also, they help show which software element is being deployed by a particular type of hardware.
  • They tell you the processing runtime for a hardware system so that you can determine if it’s running too slow or as expected.

Examples of Deployment Diagrams

To help you better understand deployment diagrams, let’s look at some services from Plutora and show them in deployment diagrams. 

Example 1: Deployment Diagram for Mobile Banking Android Services

In this diagram, a node represents the client’s device, which is an Android system. A component represents the banking application in the device. The user goes through the web to interact with the banking server and perform the required task. 

You can also see from the example above that account statement preparation and other components from the application server are dependencies. They depend on the data storage node. See the dashed lines and the arrows? 

Example 2: Deployment Diagram for Online Payment Services 

This example shows how an e-commerce platform receives payment from a customer for a product. There’s an interaction between the user’s PC, the e-commerce server, and the bank server to get the payment done. You can see three nodes: the user’s PC, the bank server, and the e-commerce server. 

It’s easier to get a sense of these after seeing a couple of examples, right? Now let’s move on to advice about making your own diagrams. 

Factors to Consider When Drawing a Deployment Diagram

Now you understand what a deployment diagram is and all it entails. But it’s still important to think about key factors that DevOps engineers, release managers, or any other IT personnel must pay attention to. These factors matter whenever you design or model a deployment diagram for any software solution you’re working to deliver. 

  • First, make sure you understand the architecture of the intended system. Otherwise, it’s just about impossible to know how to go about creating the diagram! You’ll need to differentiate whether the intended system will be a web, mobile, or cloud application. This knowledge will influence your choice of diagram template.
  • Next, outline all the nodes and artifacts intended to be part of your diagram, as well as the connections between them. Do this before you begin your modeling.
  • Then, make your deployment diagram easy to understand. Avoid unnecessary ambiguity in your modeling. Ideally, even a tech newbie will be able to understand your diagram.

Conclusion

Deployment diagrams are to software engineering what building plans are to civil or construction engineering. They show at a glance the components that make up the system, their connections, and what’s supposed to be going on in the system. 
For every software solution that’s ready for deployment, you’ll need a deployment diagram to show its processes. Plutora provides solutions that’ll keep you on track in achieving these. Check out the deployment management tools and release management platforms. You can also sign up for a personalized demo.

Ukpai Ugochi

Ukpai is a full-stack JavaScript developer (MEVN), and he contributes to FOSS in his free time. He loves to share knowledge about his transition from marine engineering to software development to encourage people who love software development and don’t know where to begin.

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