Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Architecture Principles

A member of my team recently asked me a simple question - "What are Architecture principles? And how are they different from the guidelines, best practices and NFRs that we already follow?"

Well the line of difference between the two is very blurred and in fact there could be a lot of overlap between them.

Principles are general rules and guidelines(that seldom change) that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its mission.
Architecture principles are principles that relate to architecture work. They embody the spirit and thinking of the enterprise architecture.These principles govern the architecture process, affecting the design, development and maintenance of applications in an enterprise.

The typical format in which a principle is jotted down is -
1. Statement - explaining what the principle is
2. Rationale - explaining why?

The following 2 links contain good reading material.
http://www.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf8-doc/arch/chap29.html
http://www.its.state.ms.us/its/EA.nsf/webpages/principles_home?OpenDocument

Examples of some interesting principles from the above sites:

Principle: Total cost of ownership design
In an atmosphere where complex and ever-changing systems are supporting all aspects of our business every hour of the day, it is easy to lose track of costs and benefits. And yet, these critical measures are fundamental to good decision-making. The Enterprise Architecture can and must assist in accounting for use, for change, for costs, and for effectiveness.
Rationale:Total costs of present and proposed alternatives, including unintended consequences and opportunities missed, must be a part of our decisions as we build the architecture of the future.

Principle: Mainstream technology use
Production IT solutions must use industry-proven, mainstream technologies except in those areas where advanced higher-risk solutions provide a substantial benefit. Mainstream is defined to exclude unproven technologies not yet in general use and older technologies and systems that have outlived their effectiveness.
Rationale:The enterprise may not want to be on the leading edge for its core service systems. Risk will be minimized.

Principle: Interoperability and reusability
Systems will be constructed with methods that substantially improve interoperability and the reusability of components.
Rationale:Enables the development of new inter-agency applications and services

Principle: Open systems
Design choices prioritized toward open systems will provide the best ability to create adaptable, flexible and interoperable designs.
Rationale:An open, vendor-neutral policy provides the flexibility and consistency that allows agencies to respond more quickly to changing business requirements.This policy allows the enterprise to choose from a variety of sources and select the most economical solution without impacting existing applications. It also supports implementation flexibility because technology components can be purchased from many vendors, insulating the enterprise from unexpected changes in vendor strategies and capabilities.

Principle: Scalability
The underlying technology infrastructure and applications must be scalable in size, capacity, and functionality to meet changing business and technical requirements.
Rationale:Reduces total cost of ownership by reducing the amount of application and platform changes needed to respond to increasing or decreasing demand on the system.Encourages reuse.Leverages the continuing decline in hardware costs

Principle: Integrated reliability, availability, maintainability
All systems, subsystems, and components must be designed with the inclusion of reliability and maintainability as an integral part. Systems must contain high-availability features commensurate with business availability needs. An assessment of business recovery requirements is mandatory when acquiring, developing, enhancing, or outsourcing systems. Based on that assessment, appropriate disaster recovery, and business continuity planning, design and testing must take place.
Rationale:Business depends upon the availability of information and services. To assure this, reliability and availability must be designed in from the beginning; they cannot be added afterward. The ability to manage and maintain all service resources must also be included in the design to assure availability.

Principle: Technological diversity is controlled to minimize the non-trivial cost of maintaining expertise in and connectivity between multiple processing environments.
Rationale:There is a real, non-trivial cost of infrastructure required to support alternative technologies for processing environments. There are further infrastructure costs incurred to keep multiple processor constructs interconnected and maintained. Limiting the number of supported components will simplify maintainability and reduce costs.