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How does technology support Enterprise Architecture? August 12, 2012

Posted by daleklein in Enterprise Architecture.
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The Gartner definition of enterprise architecture is: “Enterprise architecture (EA) is the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change by creating, communicating and improving the key requirements, principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future state and enable its evolution. The scope of the enterprise architecture includes the people, processes, information and technology of the enterprise, and their relationships to one another and to the external environment.”  Now that we have a common understanding of enterprise architecture, we can take a look at how technology supports Enterprise Architecture. [1]

Through the creation, communication and improvement of principles and models that represent an enterprise’s desired future state, one can enable an enterprise’s evolution.  The tool that helps one move toward that desired future state is the use of different technologies.  The idea is to improve corporate agility, accelerate the time-to-market of new products and services and improve operational efficiency by reducing the total cost of ownership.  We want to take a look at these technologies as they apply to the ideas of a business organization, business and information integration, and EA maturity.  Some of those technologies are as follows:

  1. A common database (including data warehousing)
  2. OMG and CORBA
  3. Web-services
  4. Service Oriented Architecture
  5. Enterprise Service Bus

For most companies today, data integration has transformed itself from a luxury state into a necessity.  How well a company integrates its data can be the difference between sales success or failure, customer retention or customer loss.  Today we live in a world where customers have instant access to a wealth of information and who have a pre-existing expectation about their interactions.  Databases are an important part of the database architecture in enterprise architecture.  Data can be held in legacy or package systems where you might not even have the details of the data structure.  Sometimes the data resides in multiple systems that are not interconnected or even with external systems that are service providers.  The data can vary in quality, format and even meaning.  A business organization’s objective is to have improved data collection and to make more effective use of the data. [2] [3] An operating model provides us with an abstract representation of a business entity and how it operates across processes and technology domains across the entire organization.  It is typically used to create a framework which helps formulate a strategy or a strategic scheme which will support integration while providing value to the business organization.  It is the primary driver of the level of standardization and data sharing which in this case we are looking at how to plug databases into that framework.  The technology will start out in silos; move to a standardized technology and eventually to an optimized core as it moves through the maturity model. [4]

The next technology involves the Object Management Group (OMG) and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA).  CORBA is a standard that is defined by OMG.  CORBA is a middleware that allows software components that exist on different systems written in different languages to all work together.  It allows them to act like a single application or set of services.  As a technology it allows you to normalize the interfaces between new and legacy systems.  CORBA can provide flexible data typing and enforces a tightly coupled data typing in order to reduce human error.  It acts as a bridge stretching between software components.  The problem of recent years is that companies have increased their use of the Internet and Web which further increases the pressure and complexity for IT teams to integrate the systems.  The challenge is to link databases and applications together in a way that provides the Web users with an almost instantaneous response.

Next we move on to web services.  Web services are a method of communicating between two electronic devices over a network or more specifically through the internet.  Web services are pervasive, simple, and most importantly platform-neutral.  By using a technology such as a Web service it allows you the ability to rapidly create enterprise applications that are open and interoperable, can be easily enhanced and updated.  Today technologies and business needs are in a constant state of flux.  The point of enterprise architecture is to help you manage the dynamic changes and modified organizational objectives in order to arrive at some future state which itself can be evolving.  The challenges faced by IT teams is that the same business service might be presented as a Web service, as a Web page, perhaps an application screen or a message to a wireless device.  The integration practice provides a structured information and delivery framework.  The purpose is to help break down the “silos” that are inherent in many legacy systems within an enterprise.  In the context of enterprise architecture, Web services are designed to deliver measurable results along with an accelerated return on investment.  They are a means of helping EA strike the right balance between the business and IT needs. [5]

“A Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a set of principles and methodologies for designing and developing software in the form of interoperable services. These services are well-defined business functionalities that are built as software components. “ [6]  If you read various articles and blogs on the subject of SOA they point out the blurring of SOA and web services as perceived by many individuals. The terms are often used interchangeably. We turn to Wikipedia for a definition to understand the difference: “Web services can implement a service-oriented architecture. Web services make functional building-blocks accessible over standard Internet protocols independent of platforms and programming languages. These services can represent either new applications or just wrappers around existing legacy systems to make them network-enabled. “ [6]

“At the enterprise architecture level, it is always about the business. This is not a bad thing, on the contrary, the enterprise architecture perspective should be focused on the business needs in order to make sure IT serves the business and not vice versa.  SOA characteristics can allow you to take an incremental way for removing legacy systems by exposing existing functionality using new SOA interfaces before you actually replace the underlying system.” [7]  SOA is another means of aligning business and IT while at the same time making them both more agile.  Services become the foundation for more easily creating new strategic solutions.  So, why do we need to be more agile?  The answer is that more and more businesses have to deal with a global economy and business requirements change at an even faster rate than just a few years ago.  By implementing an SOA using Web services you are more likely to have a competitive advantage over your competitors that do not use them.

Our last technology is an enterprise service bus (ESB) which is software architecture for middleware that provides fundamental services for the more complex architectures.  Typically it will incorporate the features needed to implement SOA.  ESB can be thought of as a mechanism for accessing applications and services to present a single, simple interface to end-users through the Web.  What ESB basically does is to hide complexity, simplify access, allow developers to use generic forms to handle the complex details that are going on in the background.  A large art of the appeal of an enterprise service bus is its ability to support incremental service and application integration as determined by the business requirements. [8]

Some of the primary duties of enterprise service bus are to monitor and control the routing of a message exchange between services.  It is also responsible for resolving issues between communicating service components, control deployment and versioning of the services involved.  It can also marshal redundant services when present.  ESB assumes that the services are autonomous and whose availability cannot be guaranteed.  It deals with this assumption by routing the message through a bus to be buffered.  This allows it to inspect and enhance the content and then filter, correct and reroute the message flow. [8]

Enterprise service bus is important to SOA implementation, its effects on costs, development and the deployment process.  I think it is important to understand that the functions and structure of its design permit rapid change, easy connections and control of services and processes in a SOA-based application.

I think that in looking at these five different technologies you should have noticed that each successive technology discussed appears to be an enhancement from the previous technology.  Any of these technologies can be implemented into a business organization.  Just as each technology is an advance forward from the previous it also representative to the steps that an organization goes through as they progress through the four stages found in the enterprise architecture maturity model.

Works Cited:

[1] Lapkin, Allega, Burke, Burton, Bittler, Handler, “Gartner Clarifies the Definition of the Term ‘Enterprise Architecture’,” Gartner, Inc., 2008.

[2] “The State of Customer Data Integration 2012, the What, Why and How of CRM Integration,” Scribe, 2012.

[3]A. J. a. R. Wiggins, “Modeling the Enterprise Data Architecture,” 2003. [Online]. Available: http://www.andrewj.com/publications/Modelling the Enterprise Data Architecture.pdf. [Accessed 8 August 2012].

[4] T. Kaczmarek, “Enterprise Architecture Maturity Model,” 2012.

[5]”Lucid_Technologies_Enterprise_Integration,”2012.[Online].

Available: http://www.lucidtechinc.com/enterpriseintegration.html. [Accessed 8 August 2012].

[6] “Wikipedia,” [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service-oriented_architecture.%5BAccessed 24 July 2012].

[7] A. Rotem-Gal-Oz, “What is SOA anyway? Getting from hype to reality.”.

[8] M. Rouse, “enterprise service bus (ESB),” [Online]. Available: http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/enterprise-service-bus. [Accessed 9 2012]

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