Will the Cloud Fire a Bolt of Lightning at my EA?

As students of Enterprise Architecture (EA) and the multitude of frameworks and taxonomies developed by TOGAF, Zachman, Meta Group and so on, we must consider the impacts Cloud Computing will have on our EA models. If you spend too much time reading hype marketing and watching TV commercials you might think we should throw away our EA frameworks and start over! The potential changes ushered in by Cloud offerings are nearly undisputable. What we as Enterprise Architects must not lose sight of is that an Enterprise is still an Enterprise and what we are really talking about is how we design, deploy, and deliver solutions (let’s stop calling them technology or IT solutions).

Business Architecture will certainly be heavily affected by Cloud Computing. How IT services are priced on the Cloud versus traditional IT pricing models will bring significant change as we develop business cases and ROI justification for projects. Another area of focus for Business Architects will be the “evolutionary” nature of Cloud Computing in terms of the ways customer demands can be meet by rapidly integrating Cloud offered services that would have previously required more time-consuming in-house development and integration. We cannot, however, just “step on the gas” without keeping a close eye on the Compliance and Regulatory impacts a hyper-distributed IT architecture will bring as business services move in/out of the Cloud (along with users and data).

In Application Architecture the Cloud is really an extension and refinement of SOA. Organizations that are maturing their SOA capabilities will have an easier time realizing the benefits of the Cloud (e.g., distributed application design and multi-threaded architectures). It will be paramount to remove any remaining tight coupling between applications and the underlying network, server, and data storage. Of course, the old favorite “standards based development” remains a hot topic as we potentially take an in-house service (private cloud hosted) out to a generally available Cloud service (public cloud).

For Information Architects, the Cloud introduces opportunities to integrate more disparate data sources for use in more evolved decision making models and to slake the ever increasing customer data needs. Obviously, Information Lifecycle Management moves to the front-burner in terms of importance as we expand our sphere of data beyond our internal Data Centers. For folks in heavily regulated industries a solid plan will be needed to demonstrate Compliance Audits and how Data Privacy is enforced throughout the Information Lifecycle. However, this is merely a call to action, not a reason to panic – every organization exploring the Cloud will have similar concerns and the Cloud providers realize they have to meet data security requirements before even being considers as a viable alternative (i.e., push hard on the Cloud provider!).

As the Cloud heavily evolves from the notion of shared infrastructure that customers can “rent”, it is in Infrastructure Architecture that we see a multitude of impacts to our Enterprise Architecture. The Cloud promises to augment our Infrastructure Architecture capabilities by providing scalability to meet demand in more tailored and dynamic ways. Virtualization continues to drive down IT costs and the Cloud takes full advantage of these architectures. Balancing all the exuberance around the Cloud for Infrastructure Architecture, we must also be prepared to: control technical diversity during cloud adoption and update our Security Architectures to support the “hybrid” nature of in-house and Cloud provided end-user services.

In upcoming blog entries we will go into more detail in the EA layers to explore how we maximize the benefits of Cloud computing while adhering to sound EA disciplines. As our founding father John Zachman is fond of saying “engineering is engineering” – a few Clouds throwing shadows on the technology landscape certainly does not change that! Respond with your thoughts and share how your organization views the impacts of Cloud Computing on Enterprise Architecture.

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