Guest post: Safely landed in the Cloud; now let's sack the EA?

Yesterday Dion Hinchcliffe pointed to a McKinsey report (link to report here.) It said:Complexity is rife in any growing business.

Yesterday Dion Hinchcliffe pointed to a McKinsey report (link to report here.) It said:

Complexity is rife in any growing business. As companies innovate, add new business lines and products, or expand their international presence, processes proliferate, and the discipline around them can go out the window. Meanwhile, the IT that underpins these processes can also become more entangled as aging legacy systems jostle with new applications to support the needs of the business. Over time, this kind of complexity can unravel technology standards and undermine the coherence of the architectural blueprint.

I somewhat naively suggested that if applications are moved to the cloud then maybe we could do without Enterprise Architects. It seems like a reasonable idea. Martijn Linssen, who describes himself as: "Passionate, Partner, Dad, Enterprise Integration Architect @ Cap, Quidditch Seeker, Toltec warrior. Strongly believe in global cooperation, & that we can change" wrote an extensive response to my question. I asked his permission to reprint it here because while I do not agree with everything he says, Martijn's thesis represent good talking points. Over to you Martijn:

Now that would be a good short-term business case for Cloud - or would it. Triggered by Dennis Howlett's question regarding Cloud and the role of EA

@dhinchcliffe - but if I can move chunks of this 'stuff' to the cloud then why do I need an EA? Sounds like a silly qu but is it?

and Dion Hinchcliffe's answer

It's a good question @dahowlett, the cloud disrupts all sorts of EA activity. Nevertheless, architects are still relevant, more as curators.

, I tried to give a concise answer but failed - a tweet definitely is too short for that

@dahowlett Dennis I'm going to take your good Cloud-EA question and blog post on it as a tweet (apparently) doesn't suffice CC @dhinchcliffe

Although I can be concise: moving chunks of your stuff to the Cloud is much like a divorce: separation will solve some issues and problems, but create new ones as well. That's 140 characters right there exactly

Cloud's not going to make IT as a whole less complex. However, it probably will push down the lowest layer firmly into the ground so it becomes even more static, and might simply more or less become Utility, like the disks, cables, racks and U's already are

I think Cloud will greatly drive standardisation like I've said before. Us being all out here on Twitter and Facebook and all, shows that the different forms of English that can be spoken seamlessly merge into that one, unspoken, undocumented, Global form of English that everyone understands. British idiom, Aussie slang or Bostonian are simply not used widely because there's no ROI for that. We all want to understand eachother, so we mingle, merge, and become One. That's what Cloud will do to IT...

So, Cloud will diminish the amounts to choose from, thus limiting the choices to be made. But that's very different from limiting the decisions to be made. In order for that to happen, IT as a whole would have to become more simple. Will it? No. Heck no:

There are various types of Cloud, as there are various types of enterprise architects

  • Infrastructure Architects will have to make less choices about which particular SAN or database cluster to make or buy, but they'll now have to make decisions about how to align their legacy SAN or DB cluster with the Cloud's one. That's pretty much going to be an operation in spaceonly one extremely expensive chance to get it right
  • Information System Architects will have to decide about this entirely different architecture that's come to them, and integrate that into their legacy IT-landscape applications. Client-server was a fun one, where the fat-client graphically rich legacy had to be pushed back towards the server again whilst still performing, but this will certainly pose challenges: it's a given that the mountain's not going to come to Moses this time. 'Fixing' performance issues by hauling in iron might just not work anymore. It's back to size zero on the drawing board
  • Business Architects will have a tough issue as well: there are now two markets to monitor what the competition is doing. Business Architects especially will have a very hard time delivering the much-promised business services that seem to automagically sprout out of the Cloud, if I may believe the average vendor *cough*
  • Security Architects will have the time of their life - they'll finally be taken seriously. And there will be a tyranny of some kind for a short while, I think. These unsung heroes will have to come out and play, and it will be a while before we all get used to their role in the play. Most of the time they'll just be very, very right...
  • Governance Architects will, of course, encounter the biggest issues. Database tweaking, log-purgeing, it can't be done by looking someone in the eye anymore. Rock-solid, well-documented, repeatable, rehearsable, foolproof maintenance documents, operation and installation guidelines will be indispensible. Loadbalancing? Clustering? Failover? Monitoring? Logging? I'm predicting that the term "planned disruption" will get a widely known, popular meaning in this increasingly complex chain of interdependencies

I've seen traditional IT. I've seen outsourcing. I've seen offshoring. And frankly, Cloud's just a step up from the latter. Just lately I realised that Intimacy is what we evolve around. And Cloud will take that intimacy away to an even greater extent, maybe even out of the equation. As it works with groups and individuals, having a mutual enemy (or just focuspoint) could make our old-fashioned (IT-)organisation more intimate. One thing I know for sure though: flirting with the Cloud will cause a formal divorce, without much, if any, room for bartering. Intimacy will be lost to a great extent, and we'll need coolblooded architects in order to arbitrate ahead of any potential conflict There will still be EA's in their role, but their function(s) will change dramatically

As I said, I don't necessarily agree with everything Martijn says - but I leave it to savvy commenters to pick up the beat.