In the past, a large portion of IT architecture time was spent evaluating and sizing separate pieces of infrastructure (network, server compute, storage and such) to make sure they’d work to meet a forecasted demand for the service that they were looking to provide.
Teams of people (vendors and internal resources) used to spend many hours coming up with the right configuration order, and then spend weeks of planning, setup and integration of the different parts in order to make a particular solution happen. In fact the traditional statement of purpose for IT Architecture is to: “… guide the process of planning, acquiring, building, modifying, interfacing and deploying IT resources throughout the business.” Some of the names typically associated with this role were IT Architect, Technical Architects or Solution Architects.
As IT environments and systems became more complex, it was apparent that a “complexity manager” was required, and that person was the IT Architect. The main job of the IT Architect was to identify resources required to meet specific business requirements. The role required a high degree of technical expertise combined with business acumen, as it was incumbent upon them to determine which investments would yield the best return in terms of hard costs, productivity benefits and operational efficiency. Achieving this ideal requires technical skill in planning, implementing, and managing IT infrastructure and software.
Along the way, there was a realization that an IT Architect, should not be tied to a particular set of technologies, as technology keeps shifting and changing. Instead they should be far more versed in the entire “technical solution stack”. More recently, the role of Enterprise Architects was created to denote the shift in the role’s need to better align IT with the business.
In today’s cloud-based infrastructures environment, the level of effort required for this sizing, planning, implementing and managing IT infrastructure is highly reduced. You can fairly easily provision a large on-demand, scalable and self-healing infrastructure with a few lines of codes. In this new world, IT shifted from its traditional perspective of system owner to custodian, and this shift has been a difficult one to adopt.
I recently heard a “traditional” IT Architect describe their environment as very complex. The statement that followed was perplexing and shows how hard of a shift it is for some companies: “I need to continue to justify my staffing need to maintain this complexity”. It is not that the complexity of implementing those solutions has disappeared, but instead the burden of integrating these complex environments has shifted to and packaged by cloud providers.
Some enterprises have already made this transition, becoming the enablers of new technology (most of it cloud-based or cloud-related) to support their end users, and allowing the business units to bring new solutions into their end-users, focusing only on ensuring a smooth and safe process for the company.
You may be asking: what does the role IT Architecture play in the new highly cloud-enabled world?
We believe Enterprise Architecture is more important than ever! Its role moving forward is very different. It will act in an advisory role to the business units, strongly rooted in SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) principles. Maintaining data integrity and security across multiple systems while enabling the business to react at the speed they need, without slowing them down, is the new role of IT architecture.
The IT as a Business Series of articles included: