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How Are You Architecting for the Cloud – Science, Art or by Accident?
Good architecture is a successful combination of science and art
By: Ed Featherston
Mar. 11, 2014 09:00 AM
When was the last time you had a technology conversation that did not include the word ‘cloud' in it? Gartner predicts that by 2016 the bulk of IT spend will be for the cloud. Gartner also believes that ‘nearly half of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017.' Cloud technology continues to evolve at breakneck speeds and business wants to move to the cloud equally as fast. This presents significant challenges for technologists who need ensure the business doesn't go crashing into a brick wall while moving at these speeds.
Don't Let It Be by Accident
The net result is the "evolution of an architecture that was not planned but grew ad-hoc by incrementally adding one new connection after another to a cloud vendor into a new ‘accidental cloud architecture.'" The challenge becomes trying to integrate these ‘siloed' applications from different vendors with different environments and tools. The integration becomes ad-hoc. The costs inherent in dealing with the results of an accidental architecture far outweigh any perceived benefits.
The perception for many LOB is that by going to the cloud they no longer need IT or architecture. In an earlier blog, Why do I need an architect? I discussed the on-again / off-again viewpoints on the need for architecture. The client I mentioned in that blog was among those that suffered from an accidental architecture. As many have heard me say before, no technology negates the need for proper planning and design. Someone must always be looking at the bigger picture, or failure will surely follow.
If we can agree we don't want our architectures to be accidental, we can now discuss a long-standing debate: Is architecture a science or an art?
The Argument for Science
For those expecting architecture to be ‘science as portrayed,' there is an implied absolute certainty and control that is not realistically achievable. ‘Science as practiced' is more real-world and applicable in architecture. Every solution and architecture is always a series of trade-offs. There are no perfect solutions that you can be absolutely certain about. You can achieve a level of effective certainty and control. These are the tradeoffs that are made during design. By treating architecture as a ‘science as practiced,' you will achieve much higher levels of control and certainty than from the accidental architectures.
One must be sure to set the proper expectations. Absolute certainty will not be achieved. Effective certainty can be achieved. It provides significant benefits over accidental architectures where there will be no certainty of outcomes.
The Argument for Art
There was one quote in particular that struck me, ‘Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands.' I find that statement true of technology architecture as well. Architecting systems is a science, it is a discipline, and it is a process. That process is a creative one. This may sound counter to it being a science and discipline, but I think it's part of the balance that helps produce quality systems. When trying to solve complex problems, how often have you been encouraged ‘to think outside the box,' or to be creative? That to me is asking for the artist in you to emerge.
Are Your Architectures Science, Art or Accidental?
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