Are 'accidental architectures' finally getting manageable?

Are 'accidental architectures' finally getting manageable?

Summary: "You wouldn’t want an accidental architecture for your three-story home, would you?"

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Enterprise architects work hard at planning and painting a roadmap for enterprises to follow and make the right IT decisions and purchases. Unfortunately, not every enterprise has enterprise architects.

Building New York Chelsea Aug 2013-photo by Joe McKendrick
(Image: Joe McKendrick/ZDNet)

Eric Kavanagh, writing in Inside Analysis, observes that much of the development that has taken place in recent years, between and inside enterprises, is more "accidental architecture" than anything else. "More often than not, a company’s information architecture has grown and evolved organically, like a sort of digital mycelium, spreading underground for years, ultimately providing the infrastructure for all manner of analytical insights to blossom somewhere down the line."

There have been many efforts to introduce architectural frameworks, and those more organization, to the problem. And the case is very obvious, as Kavanagh put it: "You wouldn’t want an accidental architecture for your three-story home, would you? No one in their right mind would want any such thing."

Service oriented architecture has had some success in defining how enterprise services should be broken off of existing applications, built, deployed and governed.

On the data side of the house, data warehouses were built with enterprise infrastructure in mind.

In both cases, organizational politics often proved to be a formidable roadblock. Getting these efforts funded and functioning often required resources and wherewithal often beyond the capabilities of IT departments alone.

Kavanagh observes that many approaches and solutions are now evolving toward support for real-time architectural approaches. They employ REST-based interfaces that support any and all mixes of IT, unhampered by the legacy spaghetti underneath.

There is no right answer or solution, just a need to keep pressing on with efforts to better abstract existing enterprise applications into digestable, standardized services or APIs. As EnterpriseWeb's Dave Duggal observed in a response to Kavanagh's points:

"We never have the luxury working on greenfields. We always integrate with LDAP/Active Directory and other Security protocols, connect with ERP and legacy systems, existing service libraries and APIs. While we defer to ERP as ‘systems of record’ we find that they are often not authoritative, that there is more than one source of truth.  Today, we’ve got great horizontal abstractions – Web and Cloud, but we’re using 20-30year old 3-tier application model to re-create ‘same ol’ vertically integrated stacks in the Cloud. Fat VMs, Bloated Images with long-running stateful thread – this is a disaster… an ‘accidental architecture’. It’s time for something new!"

Topics: IT Priorities, Enterprise Software

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  • Maybe not such a bad thing...

    "a company’s information architecture has grown and evolved organically, like a sort of digital mycelium, spreading underground for years, ultimately providing the infrastructure for all manner of analytical insights to blossom somewhere down the line."

    vs.

    "Enterprise architects work hard at planning and painting a roadmap for enterprises to follow and make the right IT decisions and purchases. Unfortunately, not every enterprise has enterprise architects."

    It sounds like you have your answer right there. It's not always such a bad thing that things develop and structure organically. In fact, that's how many businesses run. People forget that one of the best ways to organize a large, complicated project is to write down all the major topics on a notecard, spread out all the notecards on a table, and start organizing them into piles, hierarchies, and related topics. The whole process is amazingly fluid and effective, and works to generate creative energy and momentum. It's only when we get bogged down with old paradigms and "the way it's SUPPOSED to work!" that we feel the life-force energy being drained from our bodies as an offering to keep the totem-pole corporation balanced on it's stilts.

    Don't get me wrong, planning can be useful when it's used effectively. However, it always pains me to see this attitude (mostly surrounding the enterprise, interestingly) that letting things "unfold, evolve, and grow dynamically and naturally" is a bad thing. It is not. It's like Linus Torvalds says, "for a project [as big as Linux], you can't plan it. You have to let it evolve". There's a reason the process works. It's survival of the fittest. Therefore, it's very necessary for a business to be dynamic and adaptable, to be quick on it's toes, and the companies that do this the best will survive the longest.

    Just look at Google and Apple, obviously ginormous corporations now, but still devoting millions of dollars to research branches for new and unproven markets. They don't let their size bog them down, these companies are DEFINITELY highly adaptable and can quickly respond to new and emerging markets, and are innovative enough to even create new markets. By the time a new technology emerges that changes the landscape and future landscapes, companies with a "enterprise architect" are going to seem slow to change and unable to respond effectively.

    I always use the analogy of water. Look at a stagnant pond: no outlet, no inlet of fresh water. Probably full of disease and insect larvae. Look at a fast-moving stream: flowing, clean, free of sediment. Safe to drink. Anything that's stagnant attracts disease and is bound to die. "Life" is a symptom of those that keep moving.
    gmoney1911a3