Enterprise Architecture

Infrastructure Architecture is dead, long live Infrastructure Architecture.

Cloud infrastructure has changed the role of the infrastructure architecture into one of a virtual architect. The tin and wires approach, the HA and DR, the test and release and following the sun have all been replaced by Cloud infrastructure. Careful sizing, location, rack allocation etc. are unnecessary for most applications.

The desktop environment is changing radically: desktop management, massive rollout projects and investment decisions obsolete.  The use of virtual terminal software returns the desktop to the server. BYOD removes the need and ability to direct the desktop and mobile landscape. Network architecture is increasingly virtualised both within the virtual datacentre, between datacentres and client devices.

It is hard to imagine that bastion of physicality the Infrastructure Architect dealing with purely virtual server  communicating on a virtual network and that it can be assembled from their own virtual device. There is as serious point to this, as it depends on the Application Architect to design in such a way that enables the full power of the cloud to be used.

Not that it is anything new, just more pressure on the Application Architect.



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Remember this? The IBM Simon Personal Communicator, the world's first smartphone. How times have changed!

Remember this? The IBM Simon Personal Communicator, the world’s first smartphone. How times have changed!

Until now, mobile just hasn’t had the take up by UK enterprises you might expect. But all that seems set to change.

The key drivers are threefold: the first is progressive mobile enablement of the company workforce, or business-to-employee (B2E); the second is individuals like you and me wanting to deal with companies we buy products and services from via a proliferation of mobile phones/tablets/set top consoles, or business-to-consumer (B2C); the third is companies trading with one another via a variety of mobile channels, or business-to-business (B2B).

IBM has a distinct advantage of a fine reputation with large enterprises.  And it is precisely within those enterprises that we think  a very lucrative opportunity resides. Many of those UK enterprises eager to know more about what mobile means for them descended on IBM South Bank in London this week (18 June).

Whereas this 1-day event followed an unremarkable formula (registration, opening plenary, coffee, 2nd keynote, lunch, breakouts, coffee, panel session, closing keynote, beer), in my opinion the content itself was entirely remarkable, taking many I spoke with by surprise in terms of the quality and coverage it provided.

The event was organised by Bob Yelland’s ( @BobYelland ) excellent marketing team and hosted by Mike Spradbery (  @spradders  @IBMMobileUK ), IBM’s charismatic and energetic Mobile leader for UK and Ireland.

IBM’s own journey with mobile is clear and roundly understood; MobileFirst is the apogee of IBM’s go to market proposition in the mobile space. A combination of strategic innovation and business acquisitions is now delivering one of the most coherent offerings we have seen in a long time.

In short, IBM has just made mobile exciting again.


Cover storyAlways nice to be name checked, isn’t it?

Whether by Amazon’s CTO, Werner Vogels, in front of +1,000 people at an AWS Summit or by leading technology journalist, Graeme Burton, in front of Computing magazine’s entire circulation, we are always pleased when our work is noticed.

Graeme’s article ‘The mouse that roared: how the balance of power in IT is shifting’ has made it to Computing’s cover story today. And deservedly so. We think that it is because it shines a light on how some technologies really are disrupting traditional IT approaches.

In his piece, Graeme showcases how Cloud computing has matured to become a truly viable alternative to the locked-in, long term, on-premise approach that has held enterprises hostage to heavy capex for yonks.

His piece also illustrates how open source has risen in importance through adoption, arriving at where even enterprise level customers are not only willing to try it but demanding it as part of technology argument.

Moreover, the confluence of cloud and open source makes the commercial use case stack up in ways previously considered impossible, especially when designing for business-critical and highly competitive, regulated industries such as rail transport.

And, as always, the real winners are our customers.

In addition to the technology argument, the article highlighted the very real gains that the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) decided they needed and, in their cloud adoption journey, deliberately procured for the distinct advantages of doing things in new ways, even if that meant looking beyond the traditional “big boys” in IT out to more agile and flexible IT partners. Hence Graeme’s accent on how the balance of power in IT is shifting in favour of the little guys.  I must admit, we were tickled to be described as a “minnow”. If that is how we are regarded by the industry, we are not so bothered.  It’s what our customers think that counts.

Whereas our cloud architects and solution designers are quite used to creating amazing things, it takes a customer like ATOC to recognise how that has direct relevance to their business. At an enterprise level, entrusting their IT estate on the AWS Cloud and their application layer to a raft of open source solutions such as ForgeRock, MySQL, Jaspersoft, Hadoop/Amazon EMR and others, is the right way forward for their business (supporting revenue a stonking + £7.5 billion per year).

So bravo to them for their vision.

And thanks to the editors at Computing for researching and running the story. A lesson for all of us in the IT industry.

Could this be the shape of things to come?

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sexton_blakeSome things take a bit of unravelling. But to solve mysteries, you don’t have to be Sexton Blake (doubt you remember him?).

With the help of search engines, a few analysts’ reports and a bit of time, the fog quickly clears to reveal (another?) new wave coming in the IT industry.

Only this time, we’re talking databases.

Databases?  Ok – not the sexiest of subjects – I grant you – but we would do well to note the emerging trend in NoSQL and in open source distributed datastores generally.

Fear not. SQL hasn’t suddenly abdicated its crown, or become the object of sordid revelations about its private life. Far from it. SQL has deservedly won its place in the history of computing, especially for transactional databases.

But apparently not all databases were created the same (all the vendors will tell you that… and show you their glossy marketing brochures to back up their assertions – right?).

Mystery solved –  NoSQL means “Not Only” SQL

NoSQL doesn’t mean literally “No” SQL. And it is this “not only” aspect that is causing a bit of a stir. NoSQL databases are created in an entirely different way compared to traditional SQL databases.

In fact there are four main kinds:


Technology Landscape: No SQL

In the blog by our CTO on 28 May, Robin made mention of one such technology, a graph database called Neo4j which was one of the things that caught his eye at Big Data London.

I first heard Neo4j explained by Ian Robinson back in February this year at SyncConf. I was somewhat riveted by the capability of a graph database, which is regarded by many as a superset of all the others.

here at Smart421, we have already been working with others on customer engagements, for example with Cassandra one of the leading column data stores and  MongoDB, which is arguably the leading document database, overtaking CouchDB.

If you’re a Solution Architect and Technical Architect, you will almost certainly be tracking these and several others.

If you’re a developer, programmer or involved in some capacity in DevOps, you will almost certainly had a play or done something more serious with NoSQL (if not, why not?)

For what it’s worth, I’ve been quite impressed by some I’ve seen. Take Riak, a key-value pair distributed datastore by Basho which, although a comparatively young business, has an impressive management team exported out of Akamai and has already built a strong user base in the United States. Riak looks like it deserves more prominence over here; I’ll stick my neck out and predict it will rise to become major name before too long.  Basho will be sponsoring MobDevCon this July where two “Smarties” will be speaking.

Basho will also be organising RICON Europe, a tech led event for those interested in all-things NoSQL which will be coming to London in October (remember – you heard it here first).

NoSQL is on the up – it’s official

As a collective, NoSQL database management systems are on the move and picking up pace. Market analysts are tracking their progress carefully.

Gartner for example has predicted that NoSQL could account for 20 per cent of market penetration as early as 2014, which seems rather astonishing until you see how Gartner arrives at its assumptions. Merv Adrian, ex-Forrester and now Research VP at Gartner (@merv), appears to have done his homework on this and he is seeing NoSQL rise from basically a standing start.

As recently as 2012, Adrian quantified NoSQL Database Management Systems as having a market penetration of 1 per cent to 5 per cent of target audience (Adrian in Lapkin, 2012, pp. 36-38), upgrading his assessment in 2011 of NoSQL having a market penetration of less than 1 per cent of target audience (Adrian in Edjlali and Thoo, 2011, pp. 31-33).

Merv Adrian, and other market watchers, will be well worth listening to both this year and next if you get the chance at a Gartner Event, or if you have a Gartner research subscription perhaps you should request an inquiry call sooner rather than later.


araven07 (2011) Introduction to Graph Databases. Recording of presentation by E. Eifrem, 14 July 2011]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UodTzseLh04> [accessed 23 May 2013].

Amazon Web Services (2013 ) AWS Marketplace: Riak. [Online]. Available at <https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/pp/B00AMRXCQA/> [accessed 29 May 2013].

Adrian, M. (2012) Who’s Who is NoSQL DBMS. Gartner. 07 Jun. G00228114.

Aslett, M. (2013) ‘Navigating 451 Research’s revised database landscape map’. 451 Research. 10 January. [Online]. Available <https://451research.com/report-short?entityId=75461> [accessed 25 May 2013].

Aslett, M. (2013) ‘451 Research survey highlights growing adoption of NoSQL databases’. 451 Research. 16 May. [Online]. Available <https://451research.com/report-short?entityId=77136> [accessed 25 May 2013].

De Castro, R. (2012) ‘Why I think Riak is a great NoSQL’ DZone. 30 July. [Online]. Available at <http://architects.dzone.com/articles/why-i-think-riak-great-nosql> [accessed 26 May 2013].

Eagle, L., Brooks, C. and Sadowski, A. (2013) ‘New wave databases in the cloud, part 3: SoftLayer and Basho’. 451 Research. 01 May. [Online]. Available <https://451research.com/report-short?entityId=76917> [accessed 27 May 2013].

Edjlali, R. and Thoo, E. (2011) Hype Cycle for Data Management, 2011. Gartner. 26 Jul. G00213386.

Eifrem, E. (2011) Overview of NoSQL. [Recording of presentation by E.Eifrem ]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh1YACOK_bo> [accessed 23 May 2013].

Kovacs, K. (2013) Cassandra vs MongoDB vs CouchDB vs Redis vs Riak vs HBase vs Couchbase vs Neo4j vs Hypertable vs ElasticSearch vs Accumulo vs VoltDB vs Scalaris. [Online]. Available at <http://kkovacs.eu/cassandra-vs-mongodb-vs-couchdb-vs-redis&gt; [accessed 08 June 2013].

Lapkin, A. (2012) Hype Cycle for Big Data, 2012. Gartner. 31 Jul. G00235042.

Novet, J. (2013) ‘Basho Technologies takes aim at more enterprises with upgrades’ GigaOM. 21 February. [Online]. Available at <http://gigaom.com/2013/02/21/basho-technologies-takes-aim-at-more-enterprises-with-upgrades/> [accessed 26 May 2013].

Ricon (2013) RICON 2013. Available at <http://ricon.io/>  [accessed 25 May 2013].

Villanovauniversity (2011) A Tour of the NoSQL World. [Recording of lecture by David Cassel, Senior Consultant of MarkLogic at Department of Computer Science at Villanova University, United States of America on 07 Nov 2011]. Available at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXQsykDfGBk> [accessed 27 May 2013].

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What is the OTA?

The OpenTravel Alliance provides a community where companies in the electronic distribution supply chain work together to create an accepted structure for electronic messages, enabling suppliers and distributors to speak the same interoperability language, trading partner to trading partner.

What does the OTA look like?

A set of XML schemas (XSDs) that define travel-related entities organised into common and domain-specific types. Domains include Air, Rail, Hotel, Vehicle, Insurance, Cruise. AirPriceRS example below (from XMLSpy):


OTA Pros?

  • Off-the-shelf extensible set of components developed by the travel industry that can save valuable time and effort when designing your XML message structures.
  • Provides a common vocabulary.
  • Helps towards developing a canonical schema/data model .
  • The OTA is updated twice a year, and all schemas are backwardly compatible.
  • Maximum flexibility – all elements and attributes are optional which allows companies to choose which parts they want to use.
  • Enables companies to derive maximum value from legacy systems by wrapping them in a service façade.

OTA Cons?

  • Provider systems may only support subsets of the OTA.
  • Companies often have their own internal vocabulary for OTA entities – mapping from one to the other can be confusing.
  • Bespoke schemas will still be required. However, XML namespaces allow OTA and bespoke vocabularies to be used side-by-side.
  • If you make any custom extensions to the OTA, these will be lost when moving to a new OTA version.
  • The flexibility of OTA entities can sometimes result in unwieldy messages.

Why use the OTA?

The choice of whether to use the OTA or a bespoke solution will ultimately depend on how applicable the OTA is for a specific travel sector and the take-up of OTA by provider systems in that sector. Smart421’s experience of working with Virgin Atlantic to develop their SOA offering is that using the OTA is beneficial.


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Tonight’s British Computer Society (BCS) event in the Davidson Building opposite the Savoy in London was the first one I’ve attended for years. The subject was the Network Rail “ORBIS” programme which focuses on data asset management.

The attraction for me was three-fold: First, I’m developing a keen interest in the railways generally thanks to our work with ATOC RSP and second, because of Smart421’s focus on BigData challenges. Thirdly, the agenda mentioned something about specialist mobile apps, which is my main interest in leading our Enterprise Mobile capability in Smart421 which is backed with IBM Mobility solutions.

Secure end user enterprise mobile devices

The slick presentation from the impressive Davin Crowley-Sweet and his team brought out the approaches to data as an asset and highlighted the challenges of modernising an organisation that still collects much of its information, such as survey data, on paper. The slideshow was “Prezi” style zooming in and out like a game of Angry Birds and contained a LOT of detailed analysis and roadmaps which made me glad I sat in the front row to try and take it all in.

My rough notes are summarised here but I believe the interested reader can learn much more about ORBIS (which has been “reverse-acronymed” with the name “Offering Rail Better Information Services”) from the Network Rail website. The first point to note is that this is not another BigData experiment but an extremely far-reaching business transformation programme, focussing on business processes and aiming to be business-led. There are very serious business benefits already being gained and (according to the paper linked to above)

the £327 million total cost of ORBIS is expected to yield £270 million in asset benefits plus £100 million per year in maintenance improvements.

An iPhone for every maintenance engineer

Maintenance worker using new tablet technology

The company took the far-sighted step of giving every engineer their own ruggedized iPhone along with the request to use the built-in features as best they could to suggest what can be used. Not surprisingly, one of the most useful features was GPS, accurately pinpointing problems with rails. Then when engineering work comes along on the Sunday consigning us travellers to the replacement bus service the disruption should be minimised as engineers should be guided directly to the problem location. Taking photos with the iPhone of problems with rails was another obvious use and now there are Apps being developed (one per month on average) that can automate some of the data capture along with the photos. I asked the presenter Edward afterwards about the apps and he said there are now developments across other platforms and O/S to use other (perhaps cheaper Android-based) handsets. Having around 12,000 engineers with a ~£500 iPhone is significant cost although the positive aspect of the workers being given the desirable devices should not be overlooked.

These unstructured data inputs were combined with significant mapping data, collected using helicopters and cameras on trains similar to “Google Streetview”. I think they mentioned collecting a few Terabytes of data from each train journey that was recorded in this way. That is some BigData problem to deal with the analysis and Network Rail to develop some sophisticated decision support rules around which stretches of railway need maintenance work most urgently based on the data analysed around curvature of the line, weather conditions, etc.

Some 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and tunnels and huge electrical, telecoms and physical networks make for a highly complex set of problems to manage. The seven year mission focuses on 5 asset types: Fixed assets, Fleet assets, Topology, Topography, Unstructured data (schematics, drawings, etc). It has several defined stages, in stage 1 it asked “what?” and “where?” and continues in stage 2 to try joining up and optimising the collected asset data.

The Contribution of Data Analysis to saving lives

There is a strong emphasis on improving safety through improvements to data management; recommendations following rail disasters like the terrible Lambrigg crash in Cumbria, for which Network Rail are still apologising, said that the points failure could have been detected and fixed earlier with better data analysis. Literally a case of life and death software.

Davin answered questions after the presentation and made the very relevant observation that enterprises should manage their operational data in the same way as they manage any other (physical) asset: know what it is and where it is, monitor its quality, use it while it is relevant and when it reaches end of life get rid of it.

Caution workforce in the road!

What would your reaction be if the workforce in the road, fixing the road, did not have any tools or machines to do the job?

Frustration at the waste of time in the resulting traffic queue?

What would be your reaction if the washing machine repair man turned up without his tool kit, without a diagram of the appliance and without access to spare parts?

Refuse to pay the bill?

A security company providing security without enough staff

Questions in Parliament?

How is that so many Enterprise Architects can do their job without the tools of their trade?

Often Enterprise Architects are missing vital parts of their tool kit:

  • Standards
  • Principles
  • Reference architectures
  • Models of the Organisation
  • Application Landscape
  • Analysis and design tools
  • Information sources to feed the analysis tools
  • Stakeholder analysis

Worse than this they seem to lack the basic tools to be able to create the EA tools they need such as the processes to maintain the models, principles, guidance and governance.

Do you wonder why EA gets a bad name?

I am not suggesting that we go back to the old EA approaches

  • Boil the ocean documenting the current state
  • Tons of detailed standards (always out of date)
  • Heavy handed governance that increases costs,  misses deadlines and the point

And any of the other EA anti-patterns

Togaf 9.x of course points us at lots of artefacts and things to do, it is supposed to. We do not have to do them all, we can mix and match – What happens when we mix and match ourselves out of TOGAF9.x in all but name? Are we no longer doing architecture?

There are precedents for this situation:

SSADM was created and adopted, but everyone picked the bits they liked or could do. No one could afford to complete the whole SSADM – Especially with paper and pencil (there were few tools around).  SSADM became discredited; Every claim of compliance was subject to interpretation.

A similar thing happened to PRINCE.

I guess that there are many other examples of the dilution of the good practices until they are no longer effective.

Will this be the fate of TOGAF?

Are we architects no longer doing architecture?

Last week I attended the EA & BPM Conference in London. This is an interesting event covering the Holy Trinity of Enterprise Consulting; Enterprise Architecture, Business Process Management and Business Architecture (the key filling pulling this sandwich together).

This was the second year they have collocated the BPM Conference with the EA Conference and I think this makes for a really interesting mix. It also highlights the rise of BPM as a key function in the Enterprise. This was reflected in the exhibitors where BPM was a recurring theme on the majority of the stands. I found there was so much of interest that selecting a session was really tough over the course of the three days so I’ll highlight a few of my favourites.

Day one was a collection of seminars. I was intrigued by Alec Sharp’s Data Modelling seminar. Not for everyone Alec insisted on audience participation as he gradually built up his set piece of normalisation dance moves. Bizarre initially but I gradually found myself totally buying in to this. It’s a great way to reacquaint yourself with the various forms of normalisation. This was however a serious session providing tips and techniques for applying this ‘Misused Technique’. I’ll be laying out my diagrams in a more structured form and looking to apply ‘Guerilla Modelling’ where I encounter resistance to modelling in the future.

I was introduced to Blue Ocean Strategy during Jeff Scott’s Key Note on day three. He showed the use of the Strategy Canvas as a tool for developing strategy potentially making your competitors irrelevant. This was particularly interesting and BOS has been added to my reading list as a source of inspiration for my growing Business Architect’s toolkit.

For me the most challenging speaker, and also presentation attendee, was Michael Roseman. His constant reference to ‘Commodity BPM’ and ‘Cute’ ideas pushed you to think about the desired outcomes and values of your BPM initiative. Sure you need the fundamentals in place but conventional analysis and modelling techniques aren’t guaranteed to produce the innovation Enterprises need in today’s highly competitive and changeable environment. His classification of brainstorming as a child’s technique that is more often than not a hit and miss affair was great. He continued to explain that what’s needed is patterns for thinking and innovating that allow you to move towards a repeatable approach.

It was a great three days with an enormous amount of information and learning to be gained from both the presenters and in discussions with the exhibitors and attendees between the presentations. I’ve come away with new tools, techniques, ways of thinking and an even larger backlog of reading to cover. All I need is some time to sit down with a good book and a cold beer…

According to a Gartner survey presented at their EA summit in London the order of merit for the integration of EA into Business is:

1 Asia

2 South America

3 Europe


It demonstrates that emerging economies and their developing organisations are more prepared to engineer and construct their businesses with help of the EA, than organisations in either the US or Europe.

I suspect that history is repeating itself – In the late 1970s Lean Manufacturing (Just in Time) had been developed by Toyota and had just been discovered by US businesses. Toyota, who had had a pressing need to catch up with the USA and Europe manufacturing, developed the processes originally started by Henry Ford.

In the face of competition from Japan in the 70s and 80s the US and Europe needed to catch up with Japan’s manufacturing methods and desperately copied the ideas emerging from Japan and from Toyota.

I predict that from 2013 and beyond, when the businesses in the USA and Europe realize that to compete with Asiapac and South American businesses – they too will have to re-architect and re-engineer their organisations and processes, just like in the 70s and 80s.  This time it will be the business models and the business processes created by EA that will be re-exported to the US and Europe by the developing economies.

Calling all Enterprise Architects – are we ready for the challenge?

BananaSkinOver the years, we’ve seen some blunders in the Enterprise Architecture (EA) world, and some reoccurring themes have emerged. Being honest, we’ve even been in the room sometimes when they happen :). So we thought we’d document a few of these mistakes – here’s the first three. Feel free to add comments with your own favourites – maybe we’ll collate this info together at some point and summarise it in a white paper.


Do these things (below) for a while, and then pack your bag because your EA function will be disbanded. OK, it might be renamed (always a good rule – if a project is failing, the first thing to do it rename it) or re-organised in some way – but it’s just the organisation thrashing around you as it tries to deal with the fact that YOU HAVE FAILED. A clear symptom of this is when other teams start doing what you might consider to be EA work (“hey, I should be doing that”) – that’s when you know you’ve blown it.

Great PowerPoint strategy, but no execution

Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless (Morris Chang)

A common EA behaviour is to specify a preferred technology for some enterprise function, but define no roadmap to create the necessary dev/test environments, train people etc – therefore the barriers to use by projects are just too high for any one project to bear. The strategy is therefore utterly pointless, even damaging in fact as it just wastes resources.

Seduced by complexity

The engineer in us loves it – e.g. we love trying to populate the whole Zachman grid. It’s like Pokemon – you’ve “gotta catch ‘em all!”. Also, we love to have a conceptual model, then a logical model, then a physical model etc – and for some aspects of EA maybe this is appropriate. But the numerous dimensions can multiply up to create a seemingly infinite number of artefacts and viewpoints that you can never complete (and definitely cannot maintain).

If you feel a need to fill in all the boxes or else “I’m not done, I don’t have a complete EA”, just take step back. It’s nonsense. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are you there? To support the business that you work for.
  • Where do they get the value? Probably 50% of the value of EA comes from the first 20% of the effort – having a vision for various aspects of your EA, and a candidate roadmap to get there.

Modeling hell

This is a special case of the “seduced by complexity” error that deserves its own special mention. There is something incredibly seductive about using a model ling tool…

  • You suddenly feel “if only I could capture everything perfectly, then the world would be perfectly understood!”…
  • …quickly followed by “and if I could capture the right meta-data, maybe I could execute some of my model, or at least have some great live reporting from it!”…
  • …slowly followed by several months of coffee and darkened rooms…
  • …and then rapidly followed by your notice period

Sure, model ling has its place (a key role in fact) but the trick is to remember why on earth you are doing it and what value you and the business as a whole will derive from it. Otherwise you’ll descend into the 9th level of model ling hell…

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