Monday, November 5, 2012

Demystifying Enterprise Architecture - Part 3

Part 3 – Utilizing EA as the Enterprise Interoperability Framework
We have thusfar explored how an EA can be used to help provide and identify a unification framework for the enterprise, how to use it to align all aspects of design but perhaps the most powerful application is as a facilitation mechanism for interoperability. A certain amount of that facilitation is de facto present once the first stages are undertaken. The ability to place all of the architecture information within a context in one’s own enterprise is the first step towards extending capability across multiple enterprises. To follow with our previous analogy with enterprise as organisms, the organisms must coexist to some extent within larger ecosystems. The interrelationships between entities determine the level of cooperation or collaboration that can take place. Those inter-relationships are built upon shared ‘cultural’ or cross cultural understanding.

The entire notion of ‘Services’ within a Service Oriented Architecture is more or less based upon this premise – capability structured through relationships on a ‘need to use’ basis rather than through assumption of need arranged by hierarchy. It is philosophical battle; deterministic logic pitted against the laissez faire availability of flexible pieces of an undefined puzzle. The philosophical view of SOA takes us one step close to expression of architecture as DNA. Within SOA, the term ‘loosely coupled’ points to another important consideration for architecture as interoperability mechanism – the fact that architecture elements or components are more effective when left flexible and in this the flexibility is engendered through abstraction. In the past, using deterministic logic, systems literally hard coded the relationships between data and application logic thereby linking them synergistically in a rather negative way. The interaction and impacts of large, highly controlled inter-relationships made maintenance difficult and eventually impossible across data and application layers. This led to multi-million line chunks of code and highly tangled data structures with little effective way to separate logic back out.

An example of using EA as an Enterprise Interoperability Framework

Our focus on SOA doesn’t mean that you have to adopt SOA per se in order to facilitate interoperability; in many ways SOA as a term or discipline is highly misleading or confusing as it means different things to different people. The principles we’re describing here are not attached to any point in time hype though, when the term SOA goes out of fashion, the following principles will remain.
  • Interoperability is multi-directional, many-to-many in nature. Point to point or one to many paradigms have limited value.
  • Interoperability depends upon abstraction, the levels or types of abstraction are basically unlimited – anything can be abstracted from anything else.
  • Interoperability can be visualized and mapped (but this eventually must become reactionary rather than visionary as the level of complexity increases).
  • Non-deterministic interoperability will result in lower complexity and reduced management overhead.
  • Interoperability is relativistic – the universe of possible interaction is simply too much to imagine; it represents variability at the quantum level, so why fight it? There will be some basic rules governing environmental behavior, but these rules will be designed to allow for flexibility.  

What we’ve described above represents a somewhat radical departure from how enterprise architecture is currently viewed and practiced. To get from where we are now to this will require some time and thought as well as experimentation. However, the philosophical premises postulated here have the potential if implemented together to drastically transform the entire practice of IT. If anything is certain it is this – our technological progress is outstripping our ability to manage information. This is happening because we are still tied to the deterministic philosophies founded when resources, memory and scope was limited to a tiny sample of the potential virtual universe laying before us. Memory, scope and scale are now opening across a wide aperture – we’re viewing the infinite just beyond the horizon and lack the vocabulary to describe it.

Copyright 2012  - Technovation Talks, Semantech Inc.



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