Tiemann: Finding common ground

In the future, we may be implementing service-oriented enterprise architectures

A storm is brewing in government about the development and use of enterprise architecture. Not surprisingly, this is fueled by private-sector implementations of service-oriented architectures (SOAs).

SOA is a platform-independent architecture of modular and reusable software that enable business

processes. For those who understand SOA, enterprise architecture and their functions, this is much ado about nothing. But some compelling aspects of SOA and its potential may shift the practice of enterprise architecture. In the future, we may be implementing SOA instead.

Here's why: Enterprise architecture ensures that government business is inexorably supported by technologies that enable business functions and processes to work together to achieve an agency's goals.

Increasingly, SOA technologies are evolving from approaches such as Web services and the standards that support them. But SOA is not limited to Web services; rather, it encompasses them in an attempt to reach government and public organizations.

As the packaging and marketing of Web applications, services and components have accelerated, vendors and service providers often say, "You don't really need to have a detailed enterprise architecture anymore because it was done in developing our solutions and products. We know what you need." If you believe that, I have some tundra to sell you that would be perfect for farming, if it ever thaws out.

SOA is not a silver bullet, and we in the information technology community should know this most of all because we've had our share of ideas touted as silver bullets.

There are reasons why we collect information about and model the enterprise, its processes and data — create an enterprise architecture — before we build solutions — implement SOAs.

Enterprise architectures and SOAs share common ground. As SOAs are implemented across lines of business, reusable component models could develop and replace some custom enterprise architecture artifacts, including documentation found in the enterprise architecture data, application and technology layers. Also, details of the business model, standardized sub-processes or activities will evolve as reusable components. This hasn't happened yet, but many enterprise architecture practitioners are pursuing it.

Evidence to support the belief that enterprise architecture is changing includes work to develop business patterns, common schemas and semantic Web ontology.

Federal officials understand the evidence. Current activity by the CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee regarding common frameworks, definitions and standards supports this view.

SOA and evolving enterprise architectures are at the heart of those developments.

Enterprise architecture is changing, and practitioners need to consider SOA. Otherwise, as SOA continues to evolve, enveloping the processes and analyses that define it, enterprise architects may be practicing a hybrid service-oriented enterprise architecture approach sooner rather than later.

Tiemann is manager of the enterprise architecture practice at AT&T Government Solutions.

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