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While most fitness functions trigger on change, architects may want to build a time component into assessing fitness. For example, if a project uses an encryption library, the architect may want to create a temporal fitness function as a reminder to check to see if important updates have been performed. Another common use of this type of fitness function is a break upon upgrade test. In platforms like Ruby on Rails, some developers can’t wait for the tantalizing new features coming in the next release, so they add a feature to the current version via a back port, a custom implementation of a future feature. Problems arise when the project finally upgrades to the new version because the back port is often incompatible with the “real” version. Developers use break upon upgrade tests to wrap back ported features to force re-evaluation when the upgrade occurs.

Intentional Over Emergent

While architects will define most fitness functions at project inception as they elucidate the characteristics of the architecture, some fitness functions will emerge during development of the system. Architects never know all important parts of the architecture at the beginning (the classic unknown unknowns problem we address in Chapter 6) and thus must identify fitness functions as the system evolves.


Some architectures have specific concerns, such as special security or regulatory requirements. For example, a company that handles international fund transfers might design a specific, continuous, holistic fitness function that stress tests security, modeled after the way that the Simian Army (covered in Chapter 3) stresses infrastructure. Many problem domains contain drivers that lead architects toward one or more set of important characteristics. Architects and developers should capture those drivers as fitness functions to ensure that those important characteristics don’t degrade over time.

We show examples of combining these dimensions when it comes time to evaluate fitness functions in Chapter 3.

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