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Designing technology architectures



The architectural design activities within an IT organization are concerned with providing the overall strategic blueprints for the development and deployment of an IT infrastructure a set of applications and data that satisfy the current and future needs of the business. Although these aspects underpin the delivery of quality IT services, they alone cannot deliver quality IT services, and it is essential that the people, process and partner/supplier aspects surrounding these technological components (products) are also considered.

Architecture is a term used in many different contexts. In this context it is defined as:

The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution.

System in this definition is used in the most general, not necessarily IT, sense:

a collection of components organized to accomplish a specific function or set of functions.

So the system could be, for example, a whole organization, a business function, a product line or an information system. Each of these systems will have an architecture as defined earlier, made up of the components of the system, the relationships between them (such as control interfaces and data exchanges), the relationships between the system and its environment (political, organizational, technological, etc.) and the design principles that inform, guide and constrain its structure and operation, as well as its future development.

In essence, architectural design can be defined as:

The development and maintenance of IT policies, strategies, architectures, designs, documents, plans and processes for the deployment and subsequent operation and improvement of appropriate IT services and solutions throughout an organization.

The work of architectural design needs to assess and reconcile many types of needs, some of which may be in conflict with one another. The work should ensure that:

  • The IT infrastructures, environments, data, applications and external services serve the needs of the business, its products and services. This activity not only includes the technology components but also the management of them
  • The right balance is struck between innovation, risk and cost whilst seeking a competitive edge, where desired by the business
  • There is compliance with relevant architectural frameworks, strategies, policies, regulations and standards
  • A coordinated interface is provided between IT designers and planners, strategists, business designers and planners.

The architectural design activities should use input from the business, Service Strategy, its plans, designers and planners to develop appropriate designs, plans, architectures and policies for all areas of IT. These designs, plans, architectures and policies should cover all aspects of IT, including roles and responsibilities, services, technology, architecture and frameworks, processes and procedures, partners and suppliers and management methods. The architectural design process must also cover all areas of technology, including the infrastructure, environment, applications and data and be closely linked to the overall business planning and design processes.



Any enterprise is a complex system, with many types of components including its staff, business functions and processes, organizational structure and physical distribution, information resources and information systems, financial and other resources including technology, and the strategies, plans, management, policies and governance structures that drive the enterprise. An Enterprise Architecture should show how all these components (and others) are integrated in order to achieve the business objectives, both now and in the future.

The complete Enterprise Architecture can be large and complex. Here we are interested in those architectures concerned with the business of the organization and the information systems that support it. Each of these architectures calls on distinct architectural disciplines and areas of expertise, as illustrated in Figure 3.8.

Figure 3.8 Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture is defined by Gartner as:

the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change, by creating, communicating and improving key principles and models that describe the enterprises future states and enable its evolution.

There are many proprietary and non-proprietary frameworks for the development of an Enterprise Architecture, as illustrated in Table 3.1.


 

Full framework name Framework acronym
Architecture of Integrated Information Systems Framework ARIS
Bredemeyer Framework Bredemeyer
Business Transformation Enablement Programme Transformation Framework BTEP
Command, Control, Communications, Computers Intelligences Surveillance and Reconnaissance C4ISR
CSC Catalyst Catalyst
Computer Integrated Manufacturing Open Systems Architecture CIMOSA
Enterprise Architecture Framework Gartner
Enterprise Architecture Planning EAP
Extended Enterprise Architecture Framework E2AF
FEA Reference Models FEA
Generalized Enterprise Reference Architecture and Methodology GERAM
Integrated Architecture Framework IAF
Pillars of EA Forrester
Reference Model for Open Distributed Processing RM-ODP
Technical Architectural Framework Information Management TAFIM
Treasury Enterprise Architecture Framework TEAF
TOGAF Technical Reference Model TOGAF
Zachman Framework Zachman

Table 3.1 Enterprise Architecture frameworks

These frameworks include descriptions of the organizational structure, business processes, planning and control systems, management and governance mechanisms, policies and procedures of the enterprise. They show how these components interoperate and contribute to the achievement of business goals and objectives, and provide the basis for identifying the requirements for information systems that support these business processes.

The Enterprise Architecture should be an integrated element of the Business Architecture and should include the following major areas:

  • Service Architecture, which translates applications, infrastructure, organization and support activities into a set of services. The Service Architecture provides the independent, business integrated approach to delivering services to the business. It provides the model for making a distinction between the Service Architecture, the Application Architecture, the Data Architecture and the Infrastructure Architecture. It also provides fault tolerance, future proofing and security controls. This means that, potentially, changes occurring within any technology architectures will be transparent to the users of the service for example, web-based self-service delivery mechanisms. It should include not just the services themselves and their overall integration, but also the management of those services.
  • Application Architecture, which provides a blueprint for the development and deployment of individual applications, maps business and functional requirements on to applications, and shows the inter-relationships between applications. Emerging Application Architectures are likely to be component-based. Such an approach maximizes re-use and helps to maintain flexibility in accommodating changes in sourcing policy.
  • Data/Information Architecture, which describes the logical and physical data assets of the enterprise and the data management resources. It shows how the information resources are managed and shared for the benefit of the enterprise. A strategy on centralized versus distributed data will almost certainly have been devised as part of such an architecture. The Data/Information Architecture will include consideration of data warehousing technologies that facilitate the exploitation of corporate information assets. It will increasingly cover content management and the facilities for delivery of information over multiple channels.
  • IT Infrastructure Architecture, which describes the structure, functionality and geographical distribution of the hardware, software and communications components that underpin and support the overall architecture, together with the technical standards applying to them. This should also include a Product Architecture that describes the particular proprietary products and industry standards that the enterprise uses to implement the infrastructure in conformance with the IT Infrastructure Architecture principles
  • Environmental Architecture, which describes all aspects, types and levels of environment controls and their management. An illustration of the type of environmental information required is included in Appendix E.

The relationships between these architectural perspectives can be seen in Figure 3.9. The development, documentation and maintenance of business and IT architectures will typically form part of the processes of strategic thinking and strategy development in the organization.

Figure 3.9 Architectural relationships

Within the framework described earlier, it is possible to identify (at least) three architectural roles. These could all report to a senior Enterprise Architect in the organization:

  • Business/Organizational Architect: concerned with business models, business processes and organizational design the structural and functional components of the organization and their relationship, and how the business functions and activities of the organization are distributed among them; also the governance of the organization and the roles and responsibilities required
  • Service Architect (often separate roles of Applications Architect and Information/Data Architect): concerned with the Service, Data and Application Architectures the logical architectures supporting the business and the relationships between them
  • IT Infrastructure Architect: concerned with the physical technology model, the infrastructure components and their relationships, including choices of technologies, interfaces and protocols, and the selection of products to implement the infrastructure.

In some organizations, the roles of Business/Organizational Architect, Information Systems Architect (or possibly separate roles of Applications Architect and Data Architect) and IT Infrastructure Architect will be separate functions. In others, some or all of the roles may be combined. The roles may reside in separate parts of the organization or even outside it. For example:

  • The Business/Organizational Architect role may reside within the Business Strategy and Planning function in the corporate HQ
  • The Service Architect role may form part of an internal function with responsibility for handling relationships between the business, external suppliers and IT partners relating to Service issues. A key responsibility of such a function is the maintenance of the Service Architecture. This function may be within an IT function or within the business side of an organization
  • The IT Infrastructure Architect role may reside with the service provider/partner who is responsible for producing the IT Infrastructure Architecture used for the delivery of IT services to the organization.

If the necessary architectures are in place, then the role of Service Design is affected in the following ways:

  • Must work within the agreed architectural framework and standards
  • Will be able to re-use many of the assets created as part of the architecture
  • Should work closely with all three architectural roles to ensure maximum benefit from the work done in creating the architecture.

If architecture design is to be accomplished effectively and economically, the documents, processes and activities of the business and architectural design should be closely coordinated and synchronized. A list of these design documents and their content is contained in Appendices C and D. The individual details of technology included within architectural design are considered in the following sections.

The real benefit and RoI of the Enterprise Architecture comes not from the architecture itself, but from the ability of an organization to design and implement projects and solutions in a rapid and consistent manner.

3.6.3.1 Technology Management

A strategic approach should be adopted with regard to the planning of an information technology and its management. This implies creating architectures or blueprints for the long-term framework of the technology used and planned. IT planners, designers and architects need to understand the business, the requirements and the current technology in order to develop appropriate IT architectures for the short, medium and long term. Technology design also needs to take account of the likely IT services that it will underpin, or at least the types of service from an understanding of the business and its future direction, because the business will demand IT services, and they will need an appropriate technology to provide and deliver those services. If it is possible to provide a longer-term technology, which can underpin a number of IT services, then taking a strategic approach will provide benefit in the longer term.

Architectures need to be developed within the major areas of technology.





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