Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Liz McMillan, Sematext Blog, Yeshim Deniz, Mehdi Daoudi, Derek Weeks

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Blog Post

How Are You Architecting for the Cloud – Science, Art or by Accident?

Good architecture is a successful combination of science and art

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
I will lead with a personal bias. I have been brought into too many clients over the years to help solve problems, only to discover that the root cause was accidental architecture. You may ask, how does one create an architecture by accident? In Beware the Accidental Cloud Architecture, Bruce Tierney (a director for Oracle's SOA Suite), describes it quite well. He discusses how many lines-of-business (LOB) will outsource applications and installations to a variety of SaaS vendors. This is frequently done bypassing the IT organization entirely.

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
At this point, you may be saying ‘of course architecture is a science, it's technology.' First, I would argue that architecture is more than just technology. Technology is a key component that architecture addresses, but architecture's key driver is the business, and includes process, management and discipline as well as just technology. At the risk of sounding clichéd, whether it's a science or not also depends on how you define science. Tom Graves recently wrote a blog discussing this subject, The Science of Enterprise Architecture. In it he puts forth a very compelling argument of ‘science as portrayed' vs ‘science as practiced,' the inherent differences, and how they apply to architecture.

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
I will admit another personal bias here. There is a part of me that views architecture (and technology in general) as a form of creativity and art. How many of us, when explaining or working on an architecture with a group, gravitate to a white board and start drawing? Recently I was having this discussion on Twitter with several folks. One of them, Ruth Malan pointed me to an interesting article in the NY Times, Architecture and the lost art of drawing. The article is about building architecture, but I found it very relevant to technology architecture as well.

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?
I sincerely hope we can all agree - no one wants accidental architectures. As you can tell, I view good architecture as a successful combination of science and art. In the ever-growing and expanding cloud universe, I find the balance even more critical. Science as practiced gives us the level of effective certainty needed to provide robust and stable systems. Creativity enables us to think outside the box, providing us with the opportunity to make leaps in leveraging technology to the benefit of the business that might not have been achieved otherwise.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, will discuss the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information,
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
Now that the world has connected “things,” we need to build these devices as truly intelligent in order to create instantaneous and precise results. This means you have to do as much of the processing at the point of entry as you can: at the edge. The killer use cases for IoT are becoming manifest through AI engines on edge devices. An autonomous car has this dual edge/cloud analytics model, producing precise, real-time results. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Eng...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, will discuss new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of securit...
The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Startups are a threat to incumbents like never before, and a major enabler for startups is that they are instantly “cloud ready.” If innovation moves at the pace of IT, then your company is in trouble. Why? Because your data center will not keep up with frenetic pace AWS, Microsoft and Google are rolling out new capabilities In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Don Browning, VP of Cloud Architecture at Turner, will posit that disruption is inevitable for c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
China Unicom exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd ("China Unicom") was officially established in 2009 on the basis of the merger of former China Netcom and former China Unicom. China Unicom mainly operates a full range of telecommunications services including mobile broadband (GSM, WCDMA, LTE FDD, TD-LTE), fixed-line broadband, ICT, data communica...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...