A software reference architecture is a generic architecture for a class of software systems that is used as a foundation for the design of concrete architectures from this class. The growing complexity of software systems increases the importance of reference architectures in the design process. Because of their fundamental role in the design of complex systems, reference
architectures have to be of high quality. Before delivering a reference architecture to its stakeholders, it has to go through a rigorous evaluation process. A number of methods exist for the evaluation of concrete software architectures. In this paper, we first analyze the main differences between concrete software architectures and reference architectures. We then discuss the
effects of these differences on the evaluation of reference architectures and show that existing methods cannot be directly applied. The Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM) is currently a leading method for the evaluation of concrete architectures. Based on our experiences, we present our findings on a set of adaptations and extensions of ATAM that are needed for the application of the method for the evaluation of reference architectures. We discuss the application of this extended version of ATAM on a set of cases.
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