Information Architecture

Whither enterprise architecture, SOA and cloud computing?

Is the discipline of enterprise architecture (EA) getting “overshadowed” by the cloud or obviated by service oriented architecture (SOA)?

Not according to Len Fehskens, vice president of skills and capabilities at The Open Group, an industry consortium. “SOA is an architectural style, just as cloud is an architectural style,” he said. “It's something you bring to your EA strategy.”

He explained, “In some respects, SOA looks to me like another round of realization that things ought to modularized. A long time ago it was [reusable] subroutines that would save the day. After that, objects appeared then application systems, and now services. I do think the shift to focusing on services as a unit of modularization makes sense, because services make sense to the business community. SOA necessarily plays a large role in EA, but it’s not EA, it’s just style of doing it that offers a significantly greater potential than some other units of modularization we’ve rallied around in the past.”

The same goes for the cloud, he said. “You can’t do

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cloud computing without an EA context. Just adopting cloud as a model is not designed to solve the problem EA is designed to solve. Designing services that support the business, whether via SOA or the cloud, is what EA is about.” 

Accordingly, Fehskens said he finds any discussion of EA being “dead,” as recently bantered around in the blogosphere, as “silly.” [Ed. Note: See David Sprott’s 'death of' post or Richard Deeryards' 'Is EA dead' post, among others.]

Enterprise architecture, he noted, is a relatively young discipline, which most people date back to the mid-1980s and the pioneering work done in that area by John Zachman.

What has changed in the EA space is “a changing understanding of where the payoff is,” he said. “Most advanced adopters of EA are working at a higher level,” such as the business process layer.

While he acknowledges there is no consensus on the definition of “enterprise architecture,” Fehskens said the “general agreement is that enterprise architecture is about designing the enterprise to achieve business goals and satisfy stakeholders’ requirements. The idea that’s consistent is that enterprise architecture shouldn’t just happen; you should put design thinking into it and direction.”

And, he added, “The recurring theme is to eliminate silos and make integration and interchangeability a lot easier and efficient.”

But a trend Fehskens said he is seeing is a more heated debate about the proper focus of EA. “There is a question of whether EA ought to be more than IT,” extending to include the business side of an organization.

The Open Group points to a recent Gartner conclusion that “the role of EA is not ‘dead.’  It has, instead, just found its seat at the IT leadership table.”

Fehsken also pointed to the number of downloads for The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) 8 and 9, which he said is “well in access of 100,000.” And, he added, “of the Fortune global 50, over 80% have downloaded TOGAF. He said the Open Group has issued more than 15,000 TOGAF certifications, and that conference attendance and participation in the Architecture Forum continues to grow.

This was first published in December 2010

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