Enter the 'cloud architect': Anything new here?

Some big web operations now have cloud architects to handle new technology priorities. Should mainstream businesses look at this model as well?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Some of the big Web companies now have "cloud architects" on staff who oversee the growth of service-oriented, highly distrubuted infrastructures -- versus more traditional "hub-and-spoke"-based architectures. Is this something that will go mainstream? 

Cade Metz, writing in Wired, describes this new breed of professional emerging on the enterprise tech scene:

"Traditionally, data center networks are built like bicycle wheels. In essence, there’s a network hub with spokes running to each rack of machines. Lines run from a network 'core' to a switch at the top of each rack. But the networking that underpins DreamHost’s cloud service uses what [cloud architect Carl Perry] calls it a 'spine-and- leaf' architecture. Basically, this flattens the network. Rather than operating from a central hub, the network is built around a long spine that runs from rack to rack. The racks are the leaves. DreamHost is just one of a growing number of companies that are rebuilding their computing infrastructure in the vein of Amazon and Google. In some cases, companies are offering up this infrastructure to the rest of the world as cloud services. But other outfits are rebuilding so that they can offer similar services for use within their own companies."

Metz describes the inner working of DreamHost, in which Perry doesn't just plan and oversee internal IT systems and applications, but also to manage services "designed to share a common computing infrastructure with a vast number of outside developers and businesses — and rapidly expand with the needs of these users."

Planning and managing an environment that provides -- as well as consumers -- services from welll outside the firewall calls for an expanded vision of what it means to be an enterprise architect. But enterprise architects have been involved in the thick of web services, service oriented architecture, and now cloud platforms for some time now. They've long understood that the business technology space has been moving toward services, and it no longer matters whether those services are delivered from the on-premises IT departments, from other parts of the business, or from an off-premises provider.  

Mainstream organizations -- whether they are in manufacturing, retailing, or government -- are now IT  companies as well, and are just as likely to be delivering services to end-user customers and partners as they are to be consuming services. Whatever they are called -- enterprise or cloud architects -- these professionals will be called upon to design the most cost-effective, simplest and elegant approaches to help their organizations serve customers and grow.

(Thimbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)

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