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Understanding Hexagonal Architecture

Hexagonal architecture, also known as ports and adapters architecture, is a software design pattern that helps to develop applications in a maintainable and extensible way. This architecture provides a way to structure your application, making it easier to test, maintain, and evolve over time. In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of hexagonal architecture and its core concepts, patterns, software development, implementation, best practices, challenges, and limitations.

miko lehman
Miko Lehman
CEO @ GMI Software
18 May 2023 10 MIN OF READING

Hexagonal architecture, also known as ports and adapters architecture, is a software design pattern that helps to develop applications in a maintainable and extensible way. This architecture provides a way to structure your application, making it easier to test, maintain, and evolve over time. In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of hexagonal architecture and its core concepts, patterns, software development, implementation, best practices, challenges, and limitations.

What is Hexagonal Architecture?

Developers can use Hexagonal Architecture, a software design pattern, to create maintainable and extensible applications. Alistair Cockburn first developed the pattern, also known as ports and adapters architecture. It separates the application’s core business logic from its infrastructure, reducing complexity and improving scalability while making it easier to test and maintain. The architecture centers on a core domain, independent of external services, surrounded by adapters, or ports, that connect it to external services such as databases, messaging systems and APIs. This separation of concerns makes the application more maintainable, extensible, and testable. The architecture can be represented visually as a hexagon, with the core domain as the center and adapters as the sides. The hexagon metaphor emphasizes the core domain being surrounded by interfaces.

Hexagonal Architecture

Advantages of Hexagonal Architecture

Immersing oneself in the world of hexagonal architecture is akin to stepping into a realm of boundless possibilities, an arena where the traditional tedium of software design yields to a markedly novel form of organizing and shaping applications. Suddenly, the universe of complexity contracts, bringing forth the power to manage, test, and enhance applications with an ease that eludes more conventional structures.

Squint closer, and you’ll observe another intriguing perk of this hexagonal design. It’s a cradle of scalability, a feature so crucial in the contemporary software world. It ushers in a seamless union with external entities, like various services that knit together to boost an application’s overall potency.

In addition, hexagonal architecture flings open a gate to an aesthetic labyrinth of code, easy to navigate, easy to comprehend. Here, the meat of the business logic stands proudly apart from the architecture’s infrastructure, an unambiguous display that bestows upon developers a more lucid understanding of the code, simplifying the usually knotty tasks of debugging and refactoring.

Core Concepts of Hexagonal Architecture

In order to understand hexagonal architecture, it’s important to understand its core concepts.

  • The first concept is the core domain. This is the core business logic of the application and is not dependent on any external services. The core domain should be the focus of the application and should contain the business logic and rules.
  • The second concept is the ports. These are the interfaces that connect the core domain to external services. The ports can be thought of as “adapters” that allow the core domain to interact with external services.
  • The third concept is the drivers. These are the components that communicate with the external services. The drivers are responsible for sending and receiving data from the external services.
  • The fourth concept is the application. This is the main entry point of the application. The application is responsible for connecting the core domain to the external services.
  • Finally, the fifth concept is the frameworks. These are the tools and libraries that help to implement the hexagonal architecture. Frameworks can include dependency injection frameworks, testing frameworks, and build tools.

Architecture Patterns

Hexagonal architecture is a complex blend of design patterns. It’s a dance between the Dependency Inversion Principle, Command Pattern, and Hexagonal Pattern. The Dependency Inversion Principle mandates that high-level modules should not depend on low-level ones. This prevents excessive coupling, making testing and maintaining applications easier. The Command Pattern separates business logic from infrastructure, resulting in clear, easy-to-navigate code. This simplifies debugging and refactoring, helping developers in the software creation process.

Hexagonal in Software Development

Picture the hexagonal architecture as the rising star in the firmament of software development, a magnetic force drawing in developers with its promise of simplification and amplified scalability. In this unique paradigm, the chiseled boundary between the core domain and infrastructure breathes life into applications that are simpler to test, simpler to maintain—a lucid dream in the complex maze of software crafting.

Now, imagine hexagonal architecture as a grand conductor in the orchestra of application development. Wielding its baton, in the form of ports and adapters, it harmonizes interactions with diverse components such as databases, messaging systems, and external APIs. This captivating dance fosters a richer, more adaptable ecosystem for applications, nurturing their growth and maintenance.

Beyond this, the hexagonal architecture unravels a trail to more effective code debugging and refactoring. It uncouples the core business logic from the cumbersome infrastructure, thus liberating developers to polish and optimize code, unburdened by the shadows of infrastructural complexities. This newfound freedom paves the way for expedient and efficient application creation—a beautiful harmony of speed and quality.

Hexagonal architecture, therefore, shines in the software development cosmos as a beacon of clarity, extensibility, and efficiency. Through the lens of the English language, it transforms into a compelling narrative, an enthralling saga of software development’s future.

Implementing Hexagonal Architecture

Venturing into the realm of hexagonal architecture? Brace yourself for an enlightening journey, armed with a compass of best practices. First, summon an application skeleton into existence. Think of it as the grand bedrock, linking the core domain, brimming with business logic and regulations, to the wilderness of external services. With this well-defined skeleton, you carve a demarcation between your core domain and infrastructure, paving the way for more streamlined testing and upkeep—a true blessing for developers.

Next, bring forth the conduits—the ports—linking the core domain to the external realm. Picture them as mystical bridges enabling extensibility and maintainability, ensuring the heart of your application communicates efficiently with the outside world. Parallel to these, you need the chariots—the drivers—that facilitate smooth dialogue with the external services, bolstering the same virtues of extensibility and maintainability.

Now, it’s time to wield the magic wands of hexagonal architecture—the tools and frameworks that elevate your design. Apply dependency injection to manage dependencies effectively, ensuring each module performs its dedicated function without unnecessary intertwining. Bring in testing tools to fortify the quality of your architecture, eliminating bugs and fine-tuning performance.

Hexagonal in Action

In the grand theater of software development, hexagonal architecture is gaining ground as a charismatic lead, weaving its magic across a diverse array of applications. Picture it as a silent protagonist in the thrilling script of modern software design, a linchpin ensuring the structure and scalability of renowned digital platforms.

Take, for instance, Shopify, the bustling e-commerce marketplace. Here, hexagonal architecture reigns, crafting a solid framework that gracefully scales up to meet the ever-swelling tide of online retail, lending Shopify the nimbleness and resilience to handle its vast user base.

Now, shift your gaze to the vibrant corridors of Slack, the bustling hub of professional messaging. Once again, hexagonal architecture steals the show. It’s the unsung hero that simplifies the platform’s integration with a myriad of external services, fostering an ecosystem of seamless collaboration for businesses globally.

Best Practices for Hexagonal Architecture

Embarking on the path of hexagonal architecture is akin to setting foot on a compelling journey where best practices are your trusted companions, guiding you towards creating applications of elegance and durability.

The first beacon of wisdom along this path beckons you to maintain a sanctified partition between the core domain and the infrastructure. Like an invisible forcefield, this separation bolsters testing and maintenance, imparting resilience and longevity to your application.

Next, envision ports and drivers as emissaries bridging the core domain to external services. Their function promotes smoother integration with these services, much like diplomatic envoys fostering international relations.

The third guidepost shines a light on the utility of frameworks. Consider these as the scaffoldings and tools aiding the construction of your hexagonal architecture. Dependency injection frameworks streamline module interrelations, testing frameworks safeguard against coding misdemeanors, and build tools accelerate the crafting process—altogether, they pave the way for swift and efficient application creation.

The fourth practice exhorts you to design your application as a living, breathing entity, capable of growth and evolution. Such an extensible and maintainable design simplifies code refactoring and debugging, making your application more adaptable to change.

Moving on, the fifth principle endorses the power of automated testing. Like a tireless sentinel, it validates your application’s functionality and stability, smoothing the path for testing and maintenance.

Finally, the sixth best practice highlights the indispensability of version control. Picture it as a detailed chronicle, meticulously recording the history of your application’s evolution. This practice aids in tracing bugs and regressions, adding a layer of reliability and traceability to your software development process.

Challenges and Limitations of Hexagonal Architecture

While hexagonal architecture may be a shining knight in the realm of software development, it comes with its own share of dragons to slay. It’s a complex labyrinth, with layers of intricacy that may pose as a formidable adversary during implementation. Much like a game of chess, one wrong move in its implementation can make the code maintenance and debugging akin to untangling a Gordian knot.

The challenge of integration with external services may sometimes feel like a complex dance, each external service needing its distinct link to the core domain via ports and drivers. Picture it as a grand ball where each dancer needs a partner. This process, while necessary, can consume significant time and even spiral into a whirlpool of repetitive code, leading to a redundancy-riddled saga.

Moreover, this architecture can morph into a double-edged sword when it comes to testing. The separation of the core domain from the infrastructure, while beneficial in many ways, can create an invisible wall, leading to potential difficulties in testing the application holistically. Imagine it as trying to enjoy a symphony with soundproof partitions dividing the orchestra. You hear each section, but the wholeness, the true essence of the music, may seem elusive.

Through the realm of the English language, the limitations and challenges of hexagonal architecture unfold as a riveting narrative, revealing the many faces of this enticing yet demanding hero of the software development tale.


Hexagonal architecture is a software design pattern that helps to develop applications in a maintainable and extensible way. This architecture provides a way to structure your application, making it easier to test, maintain, and evolve over time. Hexagonal architecture can also help to reduce complexity and improve scalability. However, it can be difficult to implement due to its complexity, and it can be difficult to integrate with external services. Additionally, it can be difficult to test and maintain applications if it is not implemented correctly. By following the best practices outlined in this blog post, developers can create applications that are maintainable and extensible. Hexagonal architecture can be a powerful tool for developing applications, and understanding its core concepts and best practices can help developers create applications that are easier to test, maintain, and evolve over time.