Notes on SATURN 2016

SATURN is a small industry-focused software architecture conference run by the Software Engineering Institute. SATURN 2016 was held on May 2-5, 2016 in San Diego, and there were about 200 attendees, mostly from the US, but with small but significant delegations from countries like UK, Norway, France, Ukraine, and Brazil.

SEI has posted a number of videos of conference talks on YouTube. Here is a link to the directory of videos:

I think that several of these presentations are worth viewing... certainly the Booch keynote, as well as some of the regular technical sessions. More information on the SATURN 2016 program can be found on the SATURN website:

A big theme at SATURN this year was Internet of Things. IBM and GE had a big presence, and I also talked to some folks from Bloomberg, Google, Boeing, Statoil Norway, and RedHat.

The conference includes a number of the SEI standard architecture tutorials (which I did not attend), plus a standard conference program of invited talks and industry experience reports.

The invited talks were:

I also attended an interesting collection of the regular conference talks:

Finally, I attended a one-day workshop on Container technology:

Grady Booch keynote

The main conference keynote speaker was Grady Booch -- he still works for IBM (Chief Architext), and he currently lives in Maui, Hawaii. Booch is working with others on a PBS television documentary about how computing is fundamental to modern science. (Information on the documentary:

Booch’s keynote talk was "Abstracting the Unknown", and it focused on the hardest part of doing software architecture and design -- working on new and novel systems:

Booch points out that you may use different "processes" for different problems:

Booch spent a lot of time early in the talk going over the history of what he called "computational art" -- really just the evolution from the Renaissance to the information age of drawing and painting techniques (especially 3D perspective), followed by advances in computer graphics and computer animation technology (ray tracing, fractals, motion models) to render more and more realistic images. Some parts of this evolution are due to better hardware and better algorithms, but there is also an evolution of architecture and design.

Booch mentioned the need for architecture work in the Internet of Things area -- where there will soon be "billions and billions" of devices communicating on the Internet.

Booch also spent a bit of time talking about the evolution of the software workforce.

One insight Booch shared was the differences in the amount of creativity in solving standard (or classical) problems and in building unprecedented systems

Booch argues for a few important development practices:

Two potential problems to watch for:

Booch talked about the importance of architecture in long-lived systems. The agile community has shied away from architecture planning, but Booch mentioned two systems that have benefitted from having good "central architects" - Linux and IBM Watson.

Architecture isn’t easy in building unprecedented systems. You must be prepared to fail -- to take time to rethink the architecture decisions. Booch’s advice is to fail early, fail often, fail safely, use a good toolbag, and be prepared to get out of your "comfort zone". It is valuable to try to do the hard parts first.

Next year’s SATURN conference

Next year, SATURN 2017 will be in Denver -- May 1-4, 2017. Check the SATURN website:

Notes by Dennis Mancl (
Original version: May 8, 2016
Last modified: Mar. 22, 2017