The enterprise is rapidly shedding the static infrastructures of old in favor of a more dynamic, abstract framework. The natural result of this is the rise of data architecture over data infrastructure as the true arbiter of innovation and productivity in the new digital economy.
This is manifesting itself in a number of ways, but primarily in the fact that system and resource levels within on-premises physical infrastructure no longer produce a competitive edge. Servers, storage and even networking are now available at scale on the cloud, so there is really no longer an excuse for not supporting required workloads. All that matters is whether the workload generates sufficient return to justify the cost of on-demand, service-based infrastructure.
Advanced architectures, on the other hand, are a different ballgame. This is where creativity, vision, technical skill and a host of other factors come together to either make or break a business process.
According to ZDNet’s Joe McKendrick, one of the biggest changes to the new abstract architecture is its ephemeralness. In the past, when architectures were firmly rooted in underlying infrastructure, piecemeal changes would emerge over years, leading to a constant state of gradual evolution. In the future, enterprise architects will have the ability to build up and tear down complete working environments in short order, leading to the likelihood that organizations will have to start planning around completely new architectures every two years or so, depending on the needs of the business. The chief danger here is maintaining a strategic direction – without that, rapid change is simply uncontrolled chaos.
New tool sets are already emerging to help manage the abstract architecture. U. developer Corso Inc. recently teamed up with IBM to release an integrated management platform that combines its Agile Enterprise Architecture and Innovation Management modules with the IBM Rational System Architect tool to reduce much of the time and complexity that surround building and reworking data architectures. The tie-up is intended to provide a common framework for enterprise architectures and other stakeholders to collaborate on advanced architectural design and implementation. The Corso modules are SaaS-based and can be run within System Architect or as a standalone platform, enabling broad collaboration across diverse business entities.
The key determining factor in any successful enterprise architecture is not technology or design, but execution, says former Wells Fargo architect John Schmidt. The primary function of any architecture is to forge connections, linking everything from products, markets and channels to customers, data and business units. This is why the enterprise needs to throw out all the old rules surrounding enterprise architecture and invest in the tools and the skill sets needed to build dynamic architectural flexibility while maintaining underlying references regarding business operations and overall strategy.
Enterprise architecture will become even more complex as much of the data load is comprised of machine-to-machine communications and other automated processes, says Diginomica’s Charlie Bess. Already, this is turning the traditional approach of “design, build and run” on its head because, as noted above, the run phase is simply too short to support lengthy design and build processes. This means that architects need to start thinking of themselves more as map-makers while leaving the real exploration to others—particularly as their courses take them out of the traditional data center.
In this new world, failure should no longer be a dirty word. The ease with which architectures can be created and destroyed leaves plenty of room for experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking.
But change for the sake of change is no good either. Everything that happens up and down the stack, both in and out of the data center, should be rooted in a clear strategic vision. If things still do not work out from there, then the problem probably lies with the business model, not the data architecture.
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, Carpathia and NetMagic.