Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Sematext Blog, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, XebiaLabs Blog, Robin Miller

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 Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, 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. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, 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. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the USA and Europe, we work with a variety of customers from emerging startups to Fortune 1000 companies.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
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...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...