This article focuses on the basics around Enterprise Architecture (EA), the case for Enterprise Integration (EI) and alignment to strategy with a view to then moving to some detailed thinking about certain ways of drawing synergies and bringing out best practices. This article thus starts with definition of EA and EI and then focuses on core areas like principles and points for consideration when recommending enterprise class solutions to customers.
This article does not aim be the ultimate answer, but will enable the able architect to take into considerations all the different facets of EA and EI when architecting solutions.
Enterprise Architecture (EA) can mean different things to different people depending upon the role and responsibility of the individual within the organisation and depending upon the context of the organisation (either being a consultancy OR an end user). To many it is a framework, while others view it as a collection of rules, or a methodology for defining and designing infrastructure services. However the common aims are to improve alignment of the IT Infrastructure with business goals and to attempt to bring stability to an ever changing, chaotic and complex situation.
EA provides the essential backbone (framework) or blueprints for the communication, interpretation and implementation of corporate objectives throughout the organisation and enables the evolution of a strongly aligned IT environment. A plausible way of achieving this would be through creation of a number of interconnected architecture views. The various available frameworks (commercial and / or non-commercial) break the definition of Enterprise Architecture into a different number models and artefacts. EA at the most consists of three main elements viz. Business, Information and Operations.
An effective and pragmatic EA relies on having a common platform and systems infrastructure on which to base the organisations products and services. What we see is, an increasing need of convergence of multiple technologies into a platform providing components for building, managing and deploying services. The convergence platform should be centred on loosely-coupled integration at all levels – system, applications, information, processes and people and the ability to quickly reconfigure these elements to react to threats and opportunities in an organisation’s environment.
A services model utilises the logical-level deliverables provided by the other architectures (business and information) , expanding a platform-independent view of the business processes with associated data and presentation requirements, and using this to develop a platform and technology-dependent model, taking “cognisance” of technologies and utilising a services platform with common components and services. Approaches gaining significant traction in this area of SOA are enterprise class communications backbone like ESB, Model Driven Architecture and adoption of frameworks like TOGAF.
How do we achieve it? Well we first look at some guiding principles which are very much like a lighthouse providing necessary direction and steer to the IT transformation ocean liner… and they are:
• Security – The delicate balance between acceptable risk and usability. It is vital that an enterprise’s information is adequately protected and it will become a precondition of doing business in the future, especially with the inextricable move toward e-business and e-government.
• Adapatability – This is required to keep pace with the ever-altering internal and external environment organisations find themselves in. Solutions have to be flexible, catering to changes in requirements, procedures, processes and organisation. An important facet of architecture must be the use of modularity to enable continual adaptation, to meet changing business needs and allow re-use of software.
• Standards – for open interfaces and data models delivered thorough an Enterprise wide Governance framework are crucial if an EA approach is to succeed. The use of standards extends further than just being used for interoperability. Openness is important for protecting IT investments, both in short and long term by shielding against supplier dependency. The move to more componentisation relies on standardisation.
• Performance – must be a critical part of the architecture. As with security it is very costly to add scalability as an afterthought. Systems need to maintain efficiency and service levels regardless of demand. The whole operation is reliant on the performance of the weakest link!. The architecture must support the increase in users, transaction volumes and data capacity and prevention of bottlenecks.
• Management – of the complete architecture process is another important factor. The need for such features such as version control, end-to-end visibility, and monitoring become even more critical.
What are customers talking about?:
· Enterprise Architecture:
· A number of organisations have implemented an EA. Approaches vary: it can be top down or bottom up
· An EA model can have four levels: Business Architecture, Information Architecture, Applications & Systems Architecture, Technical Architecture
· It is important to have a common vision of where the business is going: this greatly influences application and hardware strategy.
· Key: model the business based on its services through templates: processes can then be modelled.
· Aim for reusability. Identify interdependencies
· Basic tools such as Visio plus Word, or Visio plus Office are commonly used (about half of delegate
· organisations only use these)
· EA is the technique for communicating with the business: methodologies and tools help this
· Tools can be used to document applications and business processes (not necessarily in one tool)
· Important: Consider how the information from the tool will be used to ensure it is fit for its purposes and aids communication
− The business strategy translates into the IT strategy.
− Have a planning period covering three years
− Review and update the plan regularly
− Have a decommissioning plan
− Expose projects at an early stage.
· Build governance from the board down. A strong CIO is needed to get support from the business
· Identify the IT elements of business budgets and aggregate them: this shows a total cost of IT
· Have some form of EA Policing / Auditing / Review. Always review pilots
· Achieving control: a lot can be achieved by making the adoption of governance part of personal appraisal objectives.
· Enterprise Integration:
· Increase the access to and ability to change the Application Services (based upon business need):
− Open published interface standards including XML data formats, Web Services, JMS, FTP and HTTP. Further WSDL and W3C Schemas as service definition” language, and SOAP as the “messaging protocol language”.
− The capability to selectively store message data in an external data store as it traverses the middleware
− Reduced impact of changes to IT Business services to the business
· Improve the availability and reliability of the Application Services
− Access to additional (existing) services.
− Generic high availability interconnects facility between all supported system components
− Reduced technical risk of supporting IT Business services
− Load Balancing , fault tolerance and automatic scale up through configuration provisioning
Message Transformation / Message Translation
Transform from one message format to another, for example between different XML schemas using eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT).Transform an XML Message to any of the Supported industry formats, and vice versa. Also the ability to act an intermediary between source and destination systems when message interactions happen to enable translation of formally defined messages. This is to ensure that messages are enriched and distributed in real time / batch to and from disparate sources
Support Industry protocols and formats
The ability to support specific industry message formats like FIX, SwiftNet and SWIFT(ISO 15022 and 20022), PDF, CSV, MS-Excel. Further it is also assumed that there will be a point in time in the future where the messaging solution will need to support proprietary formats for asset management services
The ability to ensure that message interactions are persistent and Transactionality (XA transactions) / state are maintained through Point to Point and Publish / Subscribe
The ability to intelligently route messages based on their subject and/or contents and allowing set up of complex dynamic message paths that will help services to interact with source and destination systems. For e.g. Route on SWIFT message
Guaranteed Message Delivery
The ability of the solution to ensure that message persistency is maintained throughout the interaction lifecycle and that messages are delivered to the destination system even when there are network failures or the destination system is down
The abilities to extract, transform and transfer files from one system to another and to process a series of batch requests through files with sync points maintained between different communication patterns (file to file, file to DB, file to messaging).
Centralised Command and Control
Centralized monitoring, configuration mgt, service lifecycle and deployment mgt
Linking the adoption of SOA closely to Business As Usual in the areas of Operations, Processes, Services, Data and Infrastructure.
The ability to “technically” orchestrate between business services based upon events raised in business processes (either system based or through human workflow). The solution should provide for technical orchestration of business services out of the box most preferably through a BPEL workflow and engine
Meta Data Management
The solution should support strategies, principles and standards that will be established for efficient handling of meta data to enable for creation of operational data stores used in business dash boarding and efficient decision making
The solution should support the ability to technically track and monitor business events / processes in real time to enable auto-error handling and publishing of this information for resolution by the BAU teams. This information is used by Technical and Business Operations to provide visibility, measurement, and assurance of key business activities, and to support root cause analysis and alerts that warn of impending problems
The solution should provide the abilities to build services at various levels for example “Create and Manage Order” could be a composite service containing many underlying services like “Order Creation”, “Order Fulfilment” etc.
This article deals with some of the basics around why organisations are giving a serious thought to Enterprise Architecture and how these considerations play a major role in linking to initiatives like Enterprise Integration.
While it is important to focus on immediate programmes at hand – it is becoming increasingly imperative to also take a step back and view the enterprise from a “aircraft pilot’s viewpoint” to enable stronger linkage of IT initiatives to Business goals, strategies and measures.
Enterprise Integration through traditional EAI methods need to focus on distributed / federated architectures that span multiple geographies and disparate business processes. A clear view on the definitions, policies and standards for EA and requirements for EI will help the architect on the ground to safely steer this ship to the target destination.
Bhavish Kumar is Deputy Practice Leader with Cognizant Technology Solutions. Bhavish is a certified TOGAF practitioner and has close to 20 years of experience, successfully delivering complex high-value projects within international blue chip and FTSE companies both as a customer and a consultant. He is an invited speaker at forums such as The Open Group and SOA Symposiums. He has in-depth experience defining Enterprise Architecture frameworks and solutions, Technology and IT Strategy Bids / Proposals and Business cases worth over 200 million GBP