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Enterprise Architecture and Service-Oriented Architecture Fad or Foundation? Part 1

  Article published in DM Direct Newsletter
April 8, 2005 Issue
  By Rex Brooks and Russell Ruggiero

Editor's note: For other articles in this series, please visit:

Part 2: http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=1025567
Part 3: http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=1025870
Part 4: http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=1026284

The terms enterprise architecture (EA) and service-oriented architecture (SOA) are being exposed to an ever wider and more influential audience. Unfortunately, as with many "new concepts" there is a common misunderstanding about prior ideas and practices from which they are derived. Accordingly, these terms will be bandied about as buzzwords and/or marketing hyperbole assaults. This article is a preemptory effort to provide both a basic and somewhat advanced understanding of these terms: why they are important to us, where they come from and what this means for the information technology (IT) industry. As with most innovative concepts that seemingly come into vogue in a sudden and haphazard manner, there is both a history leading up to its short sojourn in the spotlight of popular perception and a predictable fade unless popular uptake makes it a staple component of the IT infrastructure. With reference to EA and SOA, it is fairly certain that they will both become such a staple.

The Roots of Business Reengineering

"Business reengineering" characterized an important aspect of these tightly coupled concepts in the late 1980s by identifying the developmental thread over the last two decades and the underlying movement toward a more unified approach to business or "enterprise." Reengineering highlighted the need for businesses to adopt a culture of responding to a changing marketplace and technology landscape, while staying current with best practices in a more adaptable and pliable management framework. This is now accepted as a necessity. The term "enterprise" appears in quotes here because it is central to understanding both EA and SOA. An "enterprise" as used in this context does not refer to a business organization as such, but to any organization and that is important because it takes a unified approach to organizing and managing any organization from an IT viewpoint. The key to understanding the development of EA and SOA is to first make the connection between business reengineering and the ever more critical dependence on return on investment (ROI) as the yardstick for value across the board in global business.

This concept became paramount through the initial first wave of PC-based high tech in the mid-late 80s and achieved dominance in the heated days of the Web explosion in the 90s fueled by Y2K. Debatably, it has now virtually killed more interesting, if less certain, models for venture capital to pursue the kinds of unexpected synergies between seemingly disparate technological developments that do not promise highly profitable, quick cash-outs. Meanwhile, the priority of government, at least as it faces its constituencies, has not been to make profit but to save tax dollars, while providing more efficient services. This is an entirely different ROI model though it suffers from the same kind of myopia with regard to innovation. EA overall, which implements a SOA through a layer of data interoperability within common, (reusable) services and which is designed to plug into a more government-wide SOA is widely presented as having this cost-saving improvement in efficiency as its primary goal and benefit. As a result, it is simply easier for governmental agencies to plan, gain approval and make such a change. However, over time it will become imperative for all organizations to move their IT framework to a more inclusive and unified whole as opposed to a collection of more or less isolated islands of data and domain-specific operations and concerns.

Born of Best Practices: Best of Breed

Reengineering gave a somewhat more acceptable term to the common sense concept of collecting experience from among the leading organizations involved in improving business management, "best practices." This focus on case studies entailed the concomitant development of collecting descriptions of reengineering efforts from the most successful implementations into compendia usually focused on specific departments or divisions such as human resources or accounting or analytic techniques such as customer satisfaction indexing or supply chain optimization analysis. These collections of best-of-breed case studies also became common business tools as management began to move toward the discipline that has become known as knowledge management.

However, the rise of apparent merit also carried with it an unreflective dependence on the short-term bottom line. This stems from the cash-out mentality that has remained with us after the dot-com bubble that enabled it to gain preeminence has burst. The lessons of investing without adequate understanding have faded, but the criteria of a quick buck has taken over the house of investment strategy, witness the plague of investment scandals. Short-term focus tends to rely on cost, neglecting cost-effectiveness analysis, often seeming to use it while in fact applying spurious criteria to what constitutes effectiveness.

Continuous Improvement Rises

These developments, along with lessons learned from successful Japanese businesses in the 1970s and 1980s, evolved into an entirely new business ethic called continuous improvement. Unfortunately, this concept seems to exist more in theory than fact at the moment, though the recognition of it is reason enough to consider that it may yet take hold. While it may seem quite obvious as we look at it in retrospect, it is wise to remember that before this concept could even be coined, we first had to wade through years of reports about government subsidies, strange groupthink practices and morale-building rituals and apparently invincible strategies based on cradle-to-grave employment conferring some mystical zeitgeist upon the Japanese entrepreneur. It is good, therefore, to be thankful that the actual operative factor in that success, namely the practice of encouraging business or organization-wide commitment to continually reassessing progress and attempting to find ways to improve both the processes and the products or services of the enterprise in question.

In this case hindsight could have been counter-productive. It could have prevented us from identifying that simple principle in the face of a subsequent history which has apparently discredited those quirky cultural tactics by an all too apparent susceptibility to implacable international market forces in the form of a decade long recession. Regardless, we need to ask the question: Have we learned that the concept of continuous improvement is a necessary and fundamental principle which must be kept at the forefront of all organizations, especially in the face of the explosion of the internet upon the international marketplace? At today's hectic pace, it would be all too easy to lose sight of this in the welter of day-to-day developments where knowledge, much of it irrelevant but distracting, enlarges daily.

From Reengineering to Enterprise Architecture

The basic concepts of EA derive from a set of successive improvements in the practice of business management. As reengineering led to best practices and best-of-breed analysis, so has it also led to the principle of continuous improvement via the example of Japanese entrepreneurial culture. Therefore, we find that the study of what is required to ensure continuous improvement leads to EA and thence to SOA as requirements for IT that supports all departments to be organized as a whole rather than as a collection of islands with their specialized knowledge locked away within their own fiefdoms and in the minds of managers and line employees within those divisions and departments. Likewise, the very process by which this specialized information is used must be organized in a way that makes it available whenever needed, making EA and SOA a requirement.

Government Takes Lead

Apparently reversing what has been the typical scenario for technology adoption, the governments of the world community are leading the way in EA and SOA. The basis for this lies in several intertwined threads of business and software development. In business, the boom driven by the Y2K scare combined with rapid increases in processing power and Internet bandwidth produced equally rapid development in the methodologies employed to develop software for large scale deployments. Object-oriented (OO) development using the principle of reusability took hold. The Web connection to geographically dispersed operations required that new software be brought online to take advantage of this, and thus Web services as a sprawling collection of concepts from application integration to automating business processes was born in the early years of the New Millennium. However, even while hardware costs decreased and power increased, the impetus for rapid deployment faded as Y2K receded, the dot-com "bubble" burst, 9/11 arrived and the world economy, led by the United States, fell into a recession.

While the stage was being set for this, during the Clinton Administration it became apparent that the Internet, known in what now sounds like naive enthusiasm, as the information superhighway, demonstrated actual promise and some proven ability as a way to shrink the size of government while increasing its performance, providing cost savings to add to the "peace dividend" following the heralded passing of the "Cold War," so as to pave the way for budget surpluses as far as the eye could see. Of course, as recent history shows, this was not accurate and, in the annoying way that legislation and bureaucracy can combine in unforeseen combinations, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) had already started on its way toward some kind of reckoning within the Agencies of Government. GPRA was written while the balanced budget battle raged and produced the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings bills in the late 1980s; Agencies were required to formulate plans for reducing costs while optimizing services. The GPRA was augmented by the Clinger-Cohen-Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996, CCA-ITMRA. CCA-IMTRA repealed the monolithic control of Government Services Administration (GSA) over the purchasing of IT for all Governmental Agencies. This also took on a life of its own and has proceeded through the intervening years.

We will return to this later, but it was to become significant when combined with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements implementing the Presidential Management Agenda issued early on in the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, with little understanding about the actual source in poor capital investment choices and practices that marked its height, the dot-com bubble burst and was quickly followed by 9/11 shattering the illusion of a post Cold War Peace Dividend. This was particularly acute in its effect simply because the large scale investment in hardware infrastructure in the lead up to the Millennium had not been "planned." It was in fact, the epitome of a hasty scramble to prevent disaster from a particularly egregious previous lack of planning in the invention of the UNIX computer operating system in the 1970s. Nonetheless, this scramble was not well planned in light of Moore's Law that processing power doubles while cost halves every 18 months in the lifecycle of central processing unit (CPU) and memory development. The result is predictable. We now have more processing and networking power available at a much lower cost just when businesses are reluctant to reinvest in the face of an unpredictable economy during an election year.

However, due to legislation mentioned earlier, and the results of a later PMA-based OMB policy mandate, agencies of the United States Federal Government do not suffer under those conditions. In fact, they are tasked with implementing an IT capital investment plan of their own.

This policy is mandated to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of GPRA and CCA-IMTRA, and a plan for advancing this policy into the near future. The Chief Information Officer's Council (CIOC) has been formed, in part; to address this in a way that will also fulfill the presidential management agenda and the OMB guideline requirements. Additionally, the abuse uncovered in various scandals in the investment community has been addressed in rigorous new legislation. The Sarbanes-Oxley Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002 requires top management to be personally responsible for keeping strict records of all business-related discussions and decisions and for producing such records on demand. This is highly relevant because it covers e-mail and instant messaging (IM), as well as teleconferences and web-based meetings, which are virtually, if tacitly, required by the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998.

While the recession was exacerbating the unwillingness of management to invest in new hardware yet again, following the chronologically recent Y2K cost absorption, increases in productivity due to those previous investments has allowed businesses to get by with less employees, and natural job attrition during a recession also exerted its influence on what had been a healthy job market to the extent that the recovery, such as it is, has not extended into the IT job market significantly.

On the government side, however, The President's Management Agenda (PMA) requires all federal agencies to transform the roles and relationships among people, processes and technology in order to become a citizen-centered government. The PMA emphasizes bringing value and results to citizens, businesses, and government workers by "reducing the burden" and producing measurable improvement. This "citizen-centric government" initiative is bolstered by OMB guidelines.

It is against this background that the evolution of EA and SOA has reached the point where it has become a "hot" topic. The processes of government are not ruled by economic conditions to the extent that business policy is. Bureaucratic mandates move forward whether the economy is thriving or floundering and, perhaps even more so, when floundering. This is particularly true when the mandates offer savings that can be realized in relative short-term timeframes. However, that short term is measured in the two-to-four year timeframe from the time in which these potential savings gain recognition, e.g., now.

Thus, while moving into the first years of the PMA, the CIOC chartered several cross-agency working groups which have proceeded from initial explorations of the territory of extensible markup language (XML)-based data interoperability through to the more fully realized programs that are being pioneered in initial deployments now.

The CIO Council has established the Architecture and Infrastructure Committee (AIC), which in turn established Governance, Components and Emerging Technology Subcommittees. The AIC has also fostered the ongoing development of three following interrelated groups.

The XML Working Group evolved into The XML Community of Practice (XMLCoP): Has specifically looked at the promise of XML, as an open-standard, that is a standard promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and has gained wide acceptance.

The Enterprise Architecture Collaboration Expedition Workshop (CEW Series): Has pioneered the development of methods for encouraging cross-agency, cross-cutting collaborations which identify common concerns and common solutions for common challenges. These solutions are often characterized by having a basis in the interoperability of data offered under XML.

The Web Services Working Group (Web Services WG) evolved into the Semantic (XML Web Services) Interoperability Community of Practice, SICoP. In close association with EA-CEW, this group is focusing upon the cross-agency arena as embodied in the Communities of Practice concept. This group has tasked itself with identifying the potentials of the Semantic Web growing out of the combination of XML and the resource description framework (RDF). The RDF language is a logical complement of XML. SICoP is also closely associated with the Emerging Technologies Components Marketplace for e-government.

These three groups represent an important avenue through which EA and SOA are most likely to provide significant progress in fulfilling the PMA mandated by OMB. They will be able to do this precisely because they are cross-agency, and thus their work is available to all United States governmental agencies, provided they hear about these efforts, investigate demonstrated efforts and decide to adapt these documented policies in their own agencies and departments. A practical result of this work and that of the OMB has begun implementing the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), and the Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office (FEAPMO). Within this framework the OMB has promulgated five domain reference models: the Performance Reference Model (PRM); the Business Reference Model (BRM); the Service Component Reference Model (SRM); the Data and Information Reference Model (DRM); and the Technical Reference Model (TRM). This is highly significant, and paves the way to make the transition to a FEA not only possible but nearly inevitable.

Business Learns Hard Lessons in a Cold World

There is no way to sugarcoat or hide the fact that the so-called science of business administration, both from the academic perspective and from the pants seat perspective of management, carries with it the burden of cumulative experience. In relation to EA and SOA, this means that the lessons of history carry a residue of social and cultural impacts of that history. By culture, corporate management culture is meant, and by social, the living and working conditions of the employees, both workers and managers, is meant. However the residue is like a hastily packed collection of baggage, with older pieces of luggage inside the newer like an onion or a set of Russian dolls. This history has never allowed sufficient time to thoroughly put in place the lessons that may have been learned before it is necessary to pack those lessons away inside a newer container, or piece of luggage, and get along to the next pressing tasks.

To see how this relates to EA-SOA, we need to take a deeper look at some relatively recent history because many of the misunderstandings that will certainly be turning up in the next few years concerning this important topic will be founded in misperceptions mistakenly carried forward out of context.

While it may seem completely counterintuitive, in economic terms, ending World War II early was a disadvantage in the long term. The breakneck pace of economic and technological development slowed, as one would expect with the overriding pressure of war lifted from the victorious Allies. However, while the Korean conflict brought back a burst of development to match the sudden appearance of the first Russian MIGs, this conflict did not reignite the kind of bottom-up transformation of industry that the Second World War had. Compounding this effect, the Cold War which followed, even with the challenge posed by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, did little to shake up the high-riding status quo of the American economy. The Allied industries had established superiority in technological development that was expected to last indefinitely.

Winning a War Can Mean Losing the Peace

That, of course, was not to be. The priorities of business returned with a vengeance to the peacetime priorities of seeking and holding market share and optimizing the bottom line, even a bottom line that had never looked rosier. Meanwhile, both Germany and Japan had the dubious advantage of rebuilding their industrial bases from the ground up, once the priorities of simple survival had been met. While the Soviet Union and the United States with its colonial parent, Great Britain waged a geopolitical war that was unprecedented, Germany and Japan quietly put the best and brightest of their post-war generation through the best technical education they could offer, recognizing a necessity that also made it possible for them to produce a higher percentage of scientists and engineers on which technological development depends than might otherwise have been accomplished. We have already discussed at some lengths the inevitable result of this, but there is more.

Two facets were unavoidable. First, was a willingness to incorporate technological advances into the reconstruction of industries with a "make-do" mentality harshly enforced by the global economy. This made the German and Japanese, and to a lesser extent, the Korean, steel and manufacturing industries incorporate new automation technology as it has became available while keeping down the costs of labor.

Secondarily, the governmental subsidies necessary to rebuild have been built into ongoing support systems for those economies. Concomitantly, the necessarily lower costs of labor in post war Europe and Japan as well as Korea, combined with a social context that accepted a willingness to endure what might have seemed like a hardship to American suburbanites. In part, both in their educational systems and in their social adaptation to lesser standards of living, at least in terms of decades, these societies benefited greatly from the traditional regimentation of their histories. Second, in turn, lack of geographical territory in which to expand meant that the concept previously discussed of continuous improvement developed as almost a byproduct of adapting in place. If you can't move easily, because there is nowhere to relocate to, you learn to improve how you use what you have. At least the most successful portions of those societies learned to do this. It is becoming a useful trait in light of the current oil consumption increases. America has yet to even begin adapting to this inevitability.

Early Oil Warning Unheeded

It would be negligent in the extreme to fail mentioning an early warning sounded in the mid-seventies by the short-lived oil embargo which Organization of Oil Exporting Counties (OPEC) staged. A very important opportunity was lost to begin the work that could be helping the American economy now; but again, hindsight is always more clear than the murky and often muddy road immediately before us. There is a finite quantity of recoverable petroleum available in the crust of our planet, yet the curve of demand shows no signs of falling and every sign of continuing to increase exponentially with the population capable of consuming petroleum products. The good news is that the slow emergence of the principles underlying EA and SOA bode well for establishing a framework within which it will be easier to recognize problems amidst the welter of seemingly disjoint, random and overwhelming information. Think of it as an antidote to information overload, if we have enough time to avoid the looming difficulties that this information overload is hiding.

Dawn of IT

As has been discussed previously, business reengineering emerged in the 1980s with the first wave of high-tech hitting the mass market with the early Apple personal computers, the Apple II, the original Macintosh and the Lisa, and the original IBM PCs that quickly spawned an avalanche of IBM-compatible collections of components more or less compatible with the original and subsequent specs for the IBM PC as the OEM market exploded. It is important to remember this because it occurred precisely because the IBM of that era was bowing to public pressure to service a market that they did not believe was viable, even while it was being taken out of their hands by independent developers, manufacturers, and a public appetite that was not understood. This was based in part on gaming industry advances from the "Pac Man" level to more interesting and complex games stimulated by the simultaneous development of more complex and graphically attractive, computerized video arcade games.

It would be another few years before the second wave of high tech, symbolized by the arrival of the Mac II and widespread use of desktop computers to replace the short-lived "multiuser minis" as the microcomputer quickly advanced beyond 100 MHz barrier. The Pentium II was about to make larger businesses sit up and pay attention. The point here is that in this time period, between the mid 80s to the early 90s, Microsoft solidified its hegemony over the IBM mini-tower form factor that became the de facto desktop standard, although the CPU had moved to the floor beside the desk or in a cubby below the desktop. The first run at the client/server configuration took place using the so-called "thin client" and a vaporous "network" computer was suggested to be operated on a still-emerging Internet. These ideas were the beginning of an effort to adapt the rapidly escalating power and bandwidth to address the uneasy task of assembling a customizable architecture for a business IT efforts.

At this time, and in this highly volatile environment, the first steps were taken toward enterprise architecture (EA) and service-oriented architecture (SOA). Oddly enough, or perhaps because of that era's uncertainty about its own eventual transformation, IBM fostered the work of John Zachman, whose seminal article, A Framework for Information Systems Architecture was authored during this period. He is generally renowned as the leading expert on EA. Almost in parallel, though at the start of the 1980s, Clive Finkelstein, authored a series of six articles on Information Engineering, a discipline which includes business planning, data modeling, process modeling, systems design, and systems implementation contributed to an adaptable, holistic approach to Business management. Elements of the work of these two figures as well as many others went into the conceptual framework of business reengineering as it emerged in this era.

EA and SOA: Cold Lessons in a Hot World

Frequently asked questions that revolve around this topic include: What is EA? What is SOA? and How are they interrelated? To answer this multipart question, let us first try to gain the proper perspective for being able to see the landscape. This is commonly called the 30, 000 ft. view. This view refers to the cruising height of jet airline travel and, that is an apt metaphor, since at that height and from that perspective we see a larger picture. We see the mountain ranges not just the mountain in front of us, or the trail we are hiking up through the trees in the foothills and lower slopes. We see the checkerboard layout of farmlands. We see the green meandering paths of the watershed streams and rivers, and this is appropriate to the level of business reengineering discussed previously. In this view an enterprise is seen simply as an organization, rather than in the specific context of public or private, business or government, academic or non-profit. This is a good start.

However to truly see the outlines and parameters of what is called EA, and from that perspective begin to understand how a SOA enables an EA, we need to get up to suborbital or low orbit viewpoint at least, and it could be argued that we need to get all the way out to the viewpoint of our moon to see the entire environment within which these concepts work. The fact is that the word enterprise is by no means restricted to a business, or even an industry, nor does it refer to a particular time in the life of an organization. The enterprise encompasses the entire life cycle of an organization or an organism. Figure 1 is meant to provide a concise outline of a 30,000 ft.view in relation to EA.

Figure 1: An Enterprise Architecture Viewpoint Sees the Enterprise as a Connected Whole

After having achieved the desired scope of view, we can apply that perspective, the perspective of the economic or ecological lifecycle, to provide measures to ensure an extended life beyond the restrictions of the individual biological entity model we necessarily bring with us. Enterprises, like cultures, outlive individual members, and those life cycles require us to extend our vision further than our own lives. In many areas in our lives, such as in educational institutions, the familial clan or kinship networks, governments, etc., we take this viewpoint for granted, but in EA, we now need to be explicit and put in place the kinds of mechanisms that can conduct constant review and institute quality assurance as a matter of course and, in effect, institutionalize the cycle of build, use, learn, assess, build (adjust/rebuild), use, learn, etc., ad infinitum. This presupposes, of course, that the "de facto" starting point for this process is where an enterprise or organization happens to be at that the point when it is decided to begin this process of building and deploying an EA. Some comprehensive review is not required to start. In effect, gaining the correct perspective should allow an enterprise to refocus on the immediate with that larger focus still in mind. Such reviews or foundational reports have their place, but, unless an enterprise is at its founding point, the larger picture can be developed while the more functional aspects of current operations and immediate planning based on immediate findings take precedence in simply getting the process moving.


A Framework for Information Systems Architecture: By John Zachman

Are We Ready for the Next Web?: www.dmreview.com/editorial/newsletter_article.cfm?nl=dmdirect&articleId=7548

Component Technology: http://www.componenttechnology.org/Awards/

Development Environments/Operating Systems/Hardware Platforms and Web Services Deployment Methodologies: http://www.dmreview.com/article_sub.cfm?articleID=7183

Government and IT Consolidation, Part 1 - Analysis: http://www.datawarehouse.com/article/?articleId=4533&searchTerm=Russell%20Ruggiero

Government and IT Consolidation, Part 2 - Security: http://www.datawarehouse.com/article/?articleId=4550&searchTerm=Russell%20Ruggiero

HumanML and Government: Related IT Directives (Part One): http://xml.gov/documents/completed/huml/HumanMLinGov.htm

Incubating New Kinds of Collaborations with Emerging XML and RDF Technologies: www.oasis-open.org/apps/group_public/download.php/4890/HumanMLinCollaborations.htm?document_id=4890

Network Computing Magazine: www.networkcomputing.com

OASIS: http://xml.coverpages.org/conf.html

Webopedia: Part of the Internet.com network of Web sites and is owned and operated by Jupitermedia Corporation. All Webopedia terms are copyrighted 2003 Jupitermedia Corporation. All Rights Reserved and are used with permission. Webopedia Web site material was used for the following:

Development Environments: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/I/integrated_development_environment.html

Hardware: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/h/hardware.html

Operating Systems: www.webopedia.com

WIKI: http://colab.cim3.net/cgi-bin.wiki.pl?ExpeditionWorkshop/Enterprise Architecture

W3C: www.w3c.org


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Enterprise Achitecture, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web Services.

Rex Brooks, president of Stabourne Communications Design, has pursued an extensive and wide-ranging career in advertising art direction, corporate identity and graphic design. His ongoing interests have included the applications of computer technology in his field and applying concepts from the fields of psychology, sociology and advertising in the area of semantics and semiotics for the purposes of improving communications in digital information systems. This led to his involvement with OASIS in the HumanMarkup Technical Committee helping to create the Human Markup Language. He is the cofounder of the Content Development Working Group of the Web 3D Consortium and Humanmarkup.org, Inc. and serves as vice chair of the OASIS HumanMarkup Technical Committee. He is also actively serving on the OASIS Web Services for Remote Portlets and Emergency Management Technical Committees. You can reach him at rexb@starbourne.com.

Russell Ruggiero is a senior IT analyst. He is the acting chairman of HumanMarkup.org. Ruggiero has authored more than 150 articles and reports for well-respected firms that include Gartner, Inc. and Source Media. He may be reached at rrugg55041@aol.com.

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