Companies must take a collaborative approach to build and optimize their IT architecture to reflect the business strategy as a whole, not just a sum of its parts. Recently, I enjoyed a free-flowing dialog on this topic with David Linthicum, managing director, chief cloud strategy officer at Deloitte Consulting and host of Deloitte's On Cloud podcast.
David and I exchanged thoughts about architecting and optimizing cloud computing for the entire enterprise. The following is a synopsis of our conversation, highlighting the 5 tenets for optimizing cloud architectures that emerged from our dialog.
1. Architect with an open mind
There are myriad technologies available to enterprises. Organizations have a tendency to look at this diaspora and glimpse just bits and pieces of the various technologies. Many then risk adopting certain technologies for technology's sake rather than embracing those that achieve the outcomes that matter to the entire enterprise.
Having an open mind is essential, as the open source community advocates. Open source is not just about software; it is about open culture. Open source organizations collaborate with their customers, partners, and even competitors. Thus, "not in my backyard" or "my way or the highway" mindsets just don't work here. The open source community's collaborative, open mindset is contagious and feeds into how employees think and operate within an enterprise. This approach serves as a great catalyst to make objective, outcome-based technology selections.
[ Create an organizational culture that fosters innovation. Download The IT executive's guide to building open teams. ]
The best way to make technology choices is based on need catalyzed by adoption. Some projects come up and fail fast—as they should. Of the millions of projects out there, not every one needs to see the light of day. When you see a technology adopted by multiple companies—not just multiple contributors from the same company—it means something. Looking at adoption patterns and evidence of a collaborative mindset helps you identify the emerging technologies that will make a positive difference for your organization.
2. Architect against the hype
The IT industry is going through a bit of reckoning. C-suite level folks and boards of directors are assessing the value of their cloud computing investments over the past 15 years, and they are not necessarily finding it.
Deloitte did an extensive survey looking at leaders and followers in cloud computing and found that both spend about the same amount of money. The leaders are getting good value impact for the business, but the followers are not.
The difference appears to be that the leaders are engaging in architectural optimization, iterating continuously over time. Their end solution may look quite different from the first iteration. Falling into the prevalent pattern of the "technology du jour," rather than continuously and purposefully optimizing the architecture, creates much of the recent skepticism around cloud returns on investment (ROI).
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To architect against the hype, focus on the ROI the C-suite seeks. This helps you establish the right metrics for modernizing the environment and gives you a baseline to compare against. As new technologies with new paradigms come into the mix, your metrics will shift as well.
With continuous adjustment to these measures with observability in place, you can project the net benefit of adopting a technology. It's not always the right time to adopt a new technology. An enterprise's position on a technology could be to adopt it—or not! This is a more effective way to architect—with reason—against the hype rather than fall prey to it.
3. Architect with freedom of choice
If one word comes to mind regarding technology, it is change. This does not mean making radical changes to the architecture; it's about handling changes in the environment with the growth of heterogeneous environments in the datacenter, different cloud environments, and so on.
Different workloads do best in different environments. Therefore, you need to have a mix of environments available so that the right workload gets deployed in the environment that fits it best. Enterprises must have freedom of choice on the target environment for any workload.
This is not just about having multiple choices. Having open platforms enables you to benefit from your various environments, do things in a consistent way, and reuse systems with the right governance in place. This is why open platforms are vital to realizing the ROI the C-suite seeks.
4. Architect to be innovative
How can you architect to be innovative? You do need enough people who think in terms of innovation, but innovation is not just about people. A better question is whether your organization creates an environment where such thinking flourishes.
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Environments that focus on customer outcomes, where the various lines of business and IT come together with an open voice to have their say, are more likely to foster innovative thinking. Innovation needs collaboration, and environments that espouse a culture of collaboration are more likely to breed continuous innovation—in IT architecture and other areas.
5. Architect for change
The enterprise architecture team plays a critical role in evolving the architecture to be resilient and amenable to change, whether the change comes with notice or takes you by surprise. Apply what-if scenario logic to your architecture while factoring changing market dynamics, geo-political climate, pandemics, mergers, acquisitions, and other triggers that may not be in your control.
Your architecture must be amenable to all types of change, including technology paradigms. Logical thinking that goes beyond and across specific physical technology choices will make an architecture more flexible and able to change.
[ Learn the skills, tactics, and technologies to build greater resilience and agility into your organization's DNA. ]
Use the 5 tenets to improve your cloud architecture
To improve, architecture teams must pay close attention to any emerging patterns and be prepared to respond to them. This means being ready to deploy changes in different environments for various scenarios, including having actual running code available, not just a demo of product functionality. Capabilities you can showcase with a single-click deployment are evidence that proposed changes are not merely theoretical; they are real.
To reiterate, the 5 tenets for optimizing cloud architectures are:
- Have an open mind
- Counter the hype
- Maintain freedom of choice
- Architect for innovation
- Architect for change
Listening to the On Cloud podcast moderated by David Linthicum is a fine place to start improving. Also, check out Red Hat Emerging Technologies, which previews emerging open source technologies around the corner.