Practical Application for Software Engineering: UML Deployment Diagram

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

UML deployment diagrams are excellent tools for documenting the relationships between software and hardware. Their uniquely helpful characteristic is the ability to depict a topography of technology used in a system.

Applications for UML Deployment Diagrams

UML deployment diagrams are useful for understanding the relationships between hardware (nodes), software (components), and the products of the software (artifacts). They also show which pieces rely on something else (dependencies), the way input is provided to the system (interface), and nodes that exist inside other nodes (stereotypes). Let's apply this to a hypothetical scenario to see how it all works together.

SmartHome Automation Systems

Chris, the owner of a security supply store, has been getting a lot of inquiries lately. His customers want to know if he offers a fully-automated residential management system that manages things like utilities, security, and lighting.

After telling his customers ''no'' for a few weeks, he's still getting calls. Feeling like he's missing an opportunity, Chris decides to create a solution that he can offer to his customers. He is considering calling it the ''SmartHome'' system. To explore this idea, Chris begins building a UML deployment diagram. Let's follow Chris through the steps of the diagramming process.

Step 1: The Rough Sketch

Since ideas hit him just about any time, day or night, Chris decides to jot down his ideas on a piece of paper. As he comes across more data, or more ideas, he continues to outline and refine his handwritten notes. When he has enough information to build his formal UML deployment diagram, his rough sketch looks something like this:

The rough sketch Chris wrote out on paper looks like this.
UML Deployment Diagram 1

Step 2: Nodes and Stereotypes

The first part of Chris' diagram contains the nodes and stereotypes. His nodes include:

  1. A web server (to host the customer web portal)
  2. A residential control unit (stereotype) that that houses a database (node), user control software (artifact), and a touch screen (interface) for human input

The diagram now looks like this:

All the nodes for the system are now in the diagram. The control unit is a stereotype because it holds within itself another node.
Nodes and Stereotypes

Step 3: Artifacts and Devices

Chris is off to a great start, but he still doesn't have his artifacts and interfaces on the diagram yet. To get these important relationships down on paper, he adds:

  1. External nodes and artifacts (the XYZ Energy servers)
  2. SmartHome compatible devices (the water heater, air conditioner, furnace, and lighting system)
  3. The customer web portal
  4. The scripts or programs that will run the home's interior and exterior lighting

Chris' now nearly-completed diagram resembles this:

Chris has now added components, artifacts, and interfaces to his diagram.
Artifacts and components

Step 4: Communication

The only deployment diagram feature that remains undocumented is the communication protocols that will share information across the the nodes in Chris' system. This portion of a deployment diagram is particularly important because all of Chris' nodes need to communicate with each other, but they don't all speak the same language.

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