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Enterprise Architecture:
The Holistic View

online columnist JP Morgenthal     Column published in DMReview.com
May 26, 2005
  By JP Morgenthal

Editor's note: DM Review would like to welcome JP Morgenthal as our newest online columnist. He will write on enterprise integration in his "Enterprise Architecture: The Holistic View" column. Watch for it the last Friday of each month.

This is my inaugural column for DMReview.com, and I'm very excited to be among the noted columnists on this site. Over time, this column will focus on many areas of enterprise architecture, one of which will focus on what is enterprise architecture and what is an enterprise architect. With the recent release of my new book Enterprise Information Integration: A Pragmatic Approach, I decided that for my inaugural column I will focus on my vision for enterprise information integration (EII).

I have reviewed many of the writings on EII to date, most notably Andy Hayler's, "EII - Dead on Arrival" and Anthony Power's, "The Death of EII Redux," both available on DM Review's Web site. Of the pieces that I have read, again many of them on this site, I agree most with the sentiment presented by S. Radhakrishnan in his December 3, 2004 article, EII is a Strategy, Not a Technique. In my book, I identify EII as a best practice. The most notable point of many of these perspectives is that an immense amount of the belief about EII is driven by vendor influence. The articles I alluded to earlier dismiss EII in whole because of the lack of features provided by the vendors, which leads me to my first axiom for EII: Separate the practice from the implementation.

As is the case with enterprise application integration (EAI), the practice became defined by what tools were available to integrate applications rather than identify what needs to occur in order to make enterprise applications interoperable and then specify the toolset required to implement that direction. To assist in the process of separating practice from implementation, I came up with a definition for EII that exceeds the scope that defines the industry today based on the multitude of misinformation provided by the vendors: EII is the automated process of turning data into information.

Through this definition, we greatly expand the scope of EII and realize that distributed query is merely a small component of EII as a whole. However, let's explore this definition in more detail. First, why this definition? EII leverages meta data to infuse the data with context and structure, and it occurs during the aggregation process. Through this explanation, we can readily see that EII is one part meta data management, one part data aggregation and one part data modeling; points that are grossly overlooked in much of the literature today on this topic.

Additionally, the practice of EII is about developing a data abstraction layer for our systems. Application developers have been doing this for years through object-oriented programming (OOP). Through the OOP practice, they develop class structures that inherently know how to read and write from multiple data sources in order to bring the object into existence or save the object upon destruction. Once this practice is complete, the application only deals with the class structures and never worries about the underlying data. This concept is also captured in the creation of views within a database, but is more closely aligned with the OOP analogy.

With EII we take this concept of developing a class structure and develop it into an independent layer that can be used by all applications within the organization. The classes are defined by a taxonomic structuring within the meta data management facility and behavioral component of these classes to read and write data that is hidden in the data abstraction layer created by tools that provide data aggregation. Furthermore, and this is a critical component, these class structures need to be made available to the business process management layer so that the business analysts can use them in defining business processes (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Complete EII System

To support this vision requires interoperability of many different components, most of which you will not find in a single EII offering. However, with today's focus on interoperability through XML and Web services, the task of making these components work together is far less daunting than in years past. At one client, we effectively used the Object Management Group's (OMG) XML Metadata Interchange (XMI) specification to manage the meta data across the enterprise meta data repository, Business Objects, Oracle Data Warehouse Builder and Informatica.

To conclude, my opinion is that EII is the new data management. If viewed in the light presented here, EII becomes the foundation upon which you can capture and organize your meta data, identify your gold standard for data, abstract the access to data from all enterprise applications while at the same time adding enhanced security measures for accessing that data and simplify the incorporation of data into your workflow and business processes. If this is isn't your idea of data management for the 21st century, then write me and tell me what is. And, to answer Andy Hayler, "EII Dead on Arrival? I think not; it has barely been conceived!"


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Enterprise Achitecture and Enterprise Information Integration (EII).

JP Morgenthal is managing partner for Avorcor, an IT consultancy that focuses on integration and legacy modernization. He is also author of Enterprise Information Integration: A Pragmatic Approach. Questions or comments regarding this article can be directed to JP via e-mail at morgenthaljp@avorcor.com. Do you have and idea for a future Enterprise Architecture column? Send it to JP; and if it is used, you will win a free copy of his book.

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