On the Enterprise (aka Generic) level, more or less all of us Architects, are capable to agree on the universal diagram, providing Enterprise Architects view of an modern company. Of course, any modern company is relying 99% on the success of its IT assets.
Here we have it. Nice clean, generic and universally applicable. Just as any good IT Architecture should be: Generic.
This diagram is also nicely mapping to/from the standard TOGAF III-RM diagram.
I actually like this diagram. I find it particularly useful when Application Landscape migration is planned. It helps me explain to key stakeholders the root logic of application types. And the key qualities to be attached after the catalogue is finished. Before legacy IT landscape starts to be migrated to the first seemingly simple but crucial, still generic but full IT landscape top level diagram. Call it “Company IT Constitution in one diagram”, if you like.
Otherwise as soon as we start being Specific, and start “prescribing” particular “silver bullet” technologies we are heading into the direction of endless debates and accidental marketing. And any architect loves nothing more but to bash the marketing people into submission. Which in turn leaves the customers without a viable solution.
So. What if key stake holder asks the following question: “What is the most feasible implementation of this architecture ?”1
Then (as ever) you have to put your magical Solution Architect hat on. You have to muster all of your practical experience and you have to act. And this is what I am going to do. I will jump off my very high EA horse and answer this question. I will bodly name the tools and technologies my experience is telling me are the most feasible ones to implement this architecture. At this day and age (circa 2013).
Let’s start from the “Front Cluster” which are hosting “Business Services” used to compose modern Web Applications. This is where I recommend SharePoint. SharePoint market share is still growing exponentially. In the same time SharePoint (SP) as a product is in widespread (global) use for last 5+ years in almost every typical enterprise, where (again) most of the IT landscape is based on the Microsoft stack. And my pragmatic view is that this makes 90%+ of all medium, large and largest companies on this planet. A lot of you will now do their best to prove me wrong. But, still I will stick to this point of view.
Now, the reality. 5+ years is considerable time in the IT context, and all these SP adopters, are starting to understand what actually is this expensive thing called SharePoint. I mean they are cautiously going beyond simple intranet usage patterns. They are starting to understand (and adopt) the primary intent of SP existence. And that is SharePoint at the front of the IT landscape in the typical company of the near future. Next 5 years at least. Company whose workforce are 90% mobile and are using anything as their personal computing device. And yes, this is actually “Cloud + Client” paradigm.
So, you are the CIO or chief EA or something clever like that. You asked me a question, and this is how I think our architectural vision should be shaped up. SharePoint in the front, BizTalk in the middle, and every-bodies nightmare: Legacy Monsters in the back.
We both know you have no serious mission critical system yet, which is completely in the Cloud. And we both know that Company we are in right now is far from ideal and cleanly divided IT landscape as on the first generic diagram. So the key layer is in the integration and data transformation. From the legacy data and legacy systems in the back to the front layer components making the applications. And this is where BizTalk has no real competition.
Right now, I do not know of a better plan for any standard enterprise bogged down knee deep in the IT legacy mud, to move forward, solving all the issues of every medium to large IT landscape.
Put all of Your legacy nightmares in the back, use BizTalk to integrate and have the complete front side implemented as SharePoint sites and web applications. Instantly all is also compliant and very manageable.
I dare to claim this is one very feasible proposal. Also future proof, and also based not on pre-sales marketing, but on real and two most mature software platforms : SharePoint and BizTalk. Everything else is vested interests and legacy kingdoms built around decades of legacy systems in existence. I would stick my neck out and claim: simply there is no other feasible choice but to do this.
Cloud? where is the Cloud in this I hear you asking. My opinion: Not today but at some future point companies will be able to work in a simple Cloud+Client paradigm. Key is a secure and manageable integration with legacy parts on the ground. Cloud can be anywhere you like on the above diagram: external to it, or covering each of the parts or covering them all. The architecture still stands as it is. It can be implemented in or out of the cloud or in a combined fashion in an orderly migration to the full Cloud computing. This is how you get there. In small steps.
The time will come as soon as all of this picture is lifted to the Cloud. But not any time soon. And I think every CIO knows it.
1This is the question, I would recommend anyone to ask her architect. ASAP.