Advancement of enterprise infrastructure will proceed along fairly established lines in the coming years: increased modularity, efficiency and scalability. If only the same could be said about enterprise architecture.
EA, as it is known, is moving forward on so many fronts and across so many disciplines that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to keep track. The sheer scope of EA is partly responsible for this. Architecture spans the physical, virtual and cloud planes, as well as compute, storage and networking, plus application, data, middleware and operating systems – and each of these can be optimized for specific workloads, user sets and industry verticals. Oh, and ideally this should all be integrated into a cohesive whole that supports a fully unified data stack.
One thing is clear, says Unisys’ Nicholas D. Evans: The architectures of the future will have to be a lot more flexible and resistant to change than today’s constructs. The digital economy will be nothing if not disruptive, with entire business models being remade from the ground up to take advantage of enhanced connectivity and social mobility. Expect to see a high degree of automation and system intelligence in emerging architectures that will compel IT and line-of-business units to work more closely than ever to drive value from all available assets.
Even the government is jumping on the advanced architecture bandwagon, says business consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. It starts with a more modular physical presence optimized for containers and microservices and extends upward with agile, scalable architectures and lightweight, open software platforms. New guidelines like FITARA – the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, which failed to become law but was implemented in large measure through the National Defense Authorization Act – and the U.S. Digital Services playbook might, just might, introduce some uniformity across federal data architectures and push the government toward a more dev/ops style of IT.
You can also expect to see cloud and data center architectures merge, says Oracle’s Chuck Hollis. The enemy of efficiency is complexity, after all, and to date most enterprises have been deploying two sets of disconnected resources: one in the data center and one in the cloud. The feature sets are different, the management is different and even the workloads are different. To compete in the future, the enterprise will need to start commissioning unified, hybrid architectures that can automatically bring a range of resources to bear on any given challenge. This is, in fact, the single biggest opportunity for traditional enterprise vendors as organizations shift from do-it-yourself cloud programs to more integrated, specialized deployments.
But probably the biggest change in enterprise architectures is not the designs themselves but the ways in which knowledge workers will interact with them. While Forbes’ Jason Bloomberg raised eyebrows last year with a post entitled “Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken?”, he clarified later by saying that traditional EA is on the way out and a more open, egalitarian style is emerging. Tools like self-service provisioning are making it easier for business users to define their own operating parameters, so the enterprise architect won’t need to concern himself with portfolio management and other functions within traditional frameworks like TOGAF. Rather, the EA will be tasked with facilitating this self-service through governance and policy management so as to give non-IT pros just enough room to be productive but not enough to get them, or the organization, into trouble.
This is primarily the reason why the enterprise should not concern itself with devising the right architecture in the coming year but the right architectural framework that then allows knowledge workers to craft their own preferred working environments. The pace of business is only going to increase over the next 12 months, and so will the complexity of the business model, so the last thing the enterprise needs is to scale resources into the cloud only to find itself stuck with the same old rigid architectures that diminish the value of information in the data center.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.