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Posts Tagged ‘Enterprise Architecture’

TOGAF 9

February 20, 2009 Comments off
TOGAF 9

TOGAF 9

Carsten Molgaard over at the Rasmussen Report has an excellent overview of the newly released TOGAF 9 framework. I have never dived in depth with the TOGAF Framework, as most of my references have been back to Gartner. Carsten makes an excellent point to not focus too much on the “framework”. Use TOGAF as a collection of content and process templates.

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Enterprise Service Bus and Data Access Frameworks

July 31, 2008 Comments off

I am currently involved in an IT Project to build an Inventory Availability application for our partner’s to allow them to query each others inventory for a particular model or part.  This relatively simple effort has expanded into a number of questions on the role of web services, b2b communications, and an enterprise service bus.

We are planning on implementing an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) in the next 6-18 months, and it is complicated to define what exactly we should, and should not use it for.  Allow me to elaborate, below is the architecture of the Inventory Availability application.

High-Level Architecture

High-Level Architecture

The communications with are partners are currently handled by our B2B Integration tool, but we foresee migrating this functionality to the ESB when its deployed.  This will involve including in the ESB the knowledge (via a connector) to understand and use the XML format provided by our partners over FTP.

We also have a local database where we keep inventory history.  We want to use a data service to pull information from it, but does it make sense to build that service if the ESB can understand the database directly?  Could we (Should We) use the ESB itself to translate the XML requests into SQL requests for the database as we would translate an XML request into a call to a legacy system?

For a mid-sized IT department (with a relatively immature SOA practice), I don’t think it makes sense for to draw distinction between the service layers that handle ESB, B2B Integration, and Data Access.

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Government of IT Governance

July 29, 2008 Comments off

Effective IT Governance is critically important to the success of an Enterprise Architecture Program.  Governance provides the mechanism to align the delivery of IT projects to the enterprise strategy defined through EA.

In modeling the IT Governance process in my current organization, we looked for inspiration from middle school Civics, the US Government Model.  We separated the duties of IT Governance into Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

Civic Governance Model

Civic Governance Model

The Legislative portion of IT Governance includes our representatives with the business units to determine the business’s requirements and priorities.  The “lower house” is the Standards Council to set the detailed technology standards used for delivery.  This has been very good for us in putting the standards approval body outside of Enterprise Architecture, it removes the “Ivory Tower” perception that often comes with an EA team.

The Executive branch is responsible for the delivery of solutions that meet the business priorities and technology standards.  This consists of the approval bodies in Change and Project Management.  This puts the burden of enforcement away from Enterprise Architecture into existing and established governance bodies.

The Judicial branch in this model is the Enterprise Architecture Board itself which reviews the architecture of all solutions to guarantee alignment with the strategy and standards of the organization.  It acts as the “conscience” of the organization to do the right thing the first time.

There are also a number of checks and balances between the three branches, such as EA Chairing the Standards Council.

I am spending quite a bit of my time in this space lately, working to mature the IT Governance processes.  So far the government model has worked quite well for us as both a guide for the process structure and as a convenient way to communicate the process out into the organization.

Have any other Enterprise Architecture programs implemented a different take on the governmental model?

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Small Vendor Software is Risky Business

July 25, 2008 Comments off

There is an inherent risk to using enterprise software from small vendors, it tends to quickly become unsupportable, or completely disappear.

Software solutions from smaller vendors is often superior to the major players, solving the problem in more elegant and efficient ways.  But, when an enterprise makes an investment in a smaller software package, one of two things will probably result:

Oracle BEA

Oracle BEA

1. The vendor is a niche player and is quickly surpassed by the major players.  The vendor’s market share disappears, along with its install base.  The enterprise is quickly left with an unsupportable legacy system that requires a costly forklift replace.

2. The software is “a winner” and gains a large install base.  The vendor is quickly nabbed up by one of the major players (IBM, Oracle, Microsoft) and cannibalized for parts.  The enterprise is faced with a short term 500% increase in the support costs (due to a new “licensing model”) and needs to begin planning a migration to the vendor’s “enterprise suite” in order to remain current.

The latter is the case for my current organization, having purchased the Plumtree Portal a few years ago for delivering web applications to our external partners.  At the time, it was far superior to anything from the major players and offered to us for a fraction of the cost.  It was not long before Plumtree was acquired by BEA (then a major player).  The acquisition increased our support costs, but thankfully BEA saw value in the product and continued development of it.

Now we are faced with the acquisition of BEA by Oracle, which again is increasing our support costs.  However this time the products are being cannibalized for their features, and we are looking at migrating to the Oracle Enterprise Portal platform, or moving to another vendor entirely.

In hindsight (20/20), it might have been better for us to go with an IBM or Microsoft from the start… We may not have had the latest features at the beginning, but overall we would have less change and rework.

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RSS For Portalizing the Enterprise

July 24, 2008 Comments off
RSS

RSS

Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time looking at consumer web technologies and how users are creating and consuming content in portals. Web portals allows users to create pages and assemble content from across the Internet and display the information they want, how they want. What is different between the corporate environment that invests significant amounts to build portals, and consumers than can construct them quickly? RSS.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is the technology that allows me to build a portal with news from across dozens of sites in a matter of minutes. Just about every major website produces an RSS feed, which is a XML expression of the site’s content, that I can transform and consume. Using free Internet sites such as Yahoo Pipes, Feedburner, and NetVibes I can pull together the feeds I want, strip out the information that is relevant to me, and display it in a organized fashion.  Why not model the corporate environment similarly?

I believe that we should focus some of our development resources on enabling our applications and data sources to be “Portal Ready” by producing RSS feeds of their content.  This would allow us to construct only a few, simple portal tools that can consume content from across the environment.  It would reduce our total complexity and effort needed to create new portal environments and communities by using the same portal tools to consume different content, rather than having specialized portlets for each information source.

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The Scope of Enterprise Architecture

July 24, 2008 2 comments

I have struggled with the scope of enterprise architecture since the beginning.  EA is expected to align IT efforts with business strategy so that IT delivers things that add value.  In trying to do that better, I have spent a great deal of time defining IT Portfolios and a management structure around them.  I did this in order to define ownership, functionality, and a strategy for all the “stuff” we have, and so far it has been successful in giving myself and others a better handle on what we have and where we are going.

Does that mean that IT Portfolio Management is Enterprise Architecture?  They are certainly related.

Enterprise Architect’s focus on different aspects of IT; things such as System Reporting, Configuration Management, or IT Governance.  But the thread that runs through all of these is to understand where the environment is now so that we can decide and align where we should be going.

What isn’t the scope of enterprise architecture?

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