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Why Enterprise Architecture is Even More Relevant in a Hybrid IT World

Cloud is now a reality in enterprise organizations. While it seems only a short time ago that many organizations were still unsure of the role that cloud would play in their future, it has now become verboten to question its eventuality as the predominant enterprise operating platform. Every organization is now ‘cloud-first’ — at least, that is, if you listen to the press.

The reality, of course, is much more complex.

Enterprise organizations remain saddled with data centers full of legacy platforms. In truth, however, ‘saddled’ isn’t the right word as much of that so-called legacy technology is doing exactly the job it should be doing at a reasonable cost and with manageable maintenance models. It’s really not ‘legacy’ at all — it’s just part of what will be IT’s continuously evolving technology stack.

This fact exposes one of the greatest dangers when it comes to what we might call cloud mentality. As enterprise leaders get more comfortable with the idea of the cloud, they begin to think that its perceived simplicity and self-service nature somehow negates the need for strategic discipline and an architectural plan – in other words, enterprise architecture.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as this evolution continues, enterprise architecture will become more critical than ever.

Hybrid IT is the Future

When the cloud was just beginning its rise into the enterprise consciousness, there was a fallacy that took root: that the cloud delivered simplicity.

It is undeniable that the dynamic provisioning and management capabilities that are at the heart of cloud architectures enable organizational adaptability and agility are critical for the digital era. But the reality is that this flexibility creates more architectural complexity, not less.

For the foreseeable future, every enterprise organization will be working with a complex technology stack that includes components strewn across the digital landscape of SaaS, public cloud platforms, private cloud deployments and legacy systems.

And, as organizations continually seek to create technology-fueled competitive value, they will increasingly move toward a workflow-centric architectural perspective in which the deployment platform becomes both more transparent and more dynamic.

At Intellyx, we call this Hybrid IT — and we believe it is the real future for almost every enterprise organization. We further believe that to survive in this ever-more-complex world, enterprises must re-embrace enterprise architecture (EA) to make sense of it all.

Taking Control of Your Hybrid IT Environment

While creating a functioning hybrid IT environment will involve many technical challenges, it also creates a business quandary. On the one hand, the use of cloud environments offers organizations tremendous flexibility and the ability to rapidly purchase, provision, and decommission environments according to continually changing business needs.

The downside of this flexibility, however, is that organizations are now building their business on infrastructure they don’t own and, in many cases, cannot completely control. Further complicating this fact is that the constantly changing nature of modern applications means that it becomes almost impossible to understand how all of the parts work together.

As organizations increasingly rely on technology for every facet of their business, this opacity becomes untenable. IT must have a comprehensive understanding of each of the technical services that make up the IT operating model, how they’re connected, how they intersect within various business processes and how they are exchanging data — regardless of where those services are running or where the data lives.

Thankfully for IT teams and the organizations they serve, there is a well-established discipline for thoughtfully designing, managing and maintaining precisely this type of complex environment: enterprise architecture. The trick, however, is that like the rest of business and IT, the EA discipline must adapt to a world that moves faster and which is less predictable to fulfill its promise to the organization.

The Intellyx Take

Some EA practitioners will argue that the discipline has always required the ability to define dynamic architectures to accommodate changing business needs. And, of course, they’re right.

In practice, however, enterprise organizations have largely executed their EA efforts in a waterfall-like manner, building intricate technical standards and long-range roadmaps.

While these efforts will continue to provide long-term value, the digital era EA discipline must also deliver to the enterprise a capability to manage the modern, dynamic IT technology stack that will not fit neatly into traditional, mostly-static architectural representations.

Business, IT and EA leaders should, therefore, look to both new operating approaches and newer tools, such as SAMU by Atoll, that enable them to rapidly and continuously adapt their architectural models, leveraging whatever degree of rigor and formality that is appropriate at any given time.

Additionally, it will be critical that organizations do away with the conceptual posture that many EA teams apply and instead ensure that they execute the management of their architecture in real-time and using dynamically created representations of their production infrastructure. It is only from that more realistic and practical starting point that they will enable the organization to make sense of their dynamic and complex technology stack and leverage it to strategic advantage.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Atoll is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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