Overarching IT Architecture & Roadmap
Welcome to our third article in our Cloud Articles series - today we dive into the
- IT Infrastructure Architecture from a CIO point of view for an Enterprise company - and
- demonstrate the necessity for an Overarching IT Architecture, including a Roadmap.
Unfortunately, there are still too many companies without a dedicated infrastructure strategy and lacking a holistic technical roadmap. But this makes it hard to make the right decisions in a transformation. We already demonstrated this issue in the first article of this series, where I dived into misleading or not adequately defined Cloud strategies that (almost) all have the same root cause:
A loosely described or even lacking strategy without an IT Infrastructure roadmap.
In the worst cases, the companies are speaking about how to adopt the Cloud in a cloud-native approach, but they are still facing significant gaps and issues with their existing infrastructure that will block these new approaches.
When speaking about an overarching architecture in an enterprise company, the first thing that comes to mind is Enterprise Architecture (EA).
But what is EA?
“Enterprise Architecture (EA) is the process by which organizations standardize and organize IT infrastructure to aligns with business goals.” (Reference)
And it is true - many people think of EA like this. But there is one tough challenge with Enterprise Architecture: It is mostly being governed from a top-down approach, trying to fulfill the Business Requirements and defining the Technical Capabilities only with the Business in mind.
What companies, though, rarely do, is to measure and evaluate the current IT landscape and its general maturity on a holistic approach. Having a look at the business requirements - and only at those - can block the modernization process of the existing IT Infrastructure.
There are technical requirements to successfully and effectively adopt modern and future IT use-cases and also integrate Cloud into your whole environment in a proper way. These requirements will build up new maturity levels of the overarching IT Infrastructure. But reaching these new maturity levels will not always provide a dedicated Business value for most companies.
Therefore, you can see that many companies are merely postponing these requirements as long as they can somehow afford to do so.
But this is now colliding with the intention of a proper Technical Architecture.
Technical Architecture, in general, should always evaluate the options that you have. Usually, architects assess the possibilities for their pros and cons and schedule them afterward with short-, mid- and long-term goals.
And one of the essential skills for a good Technical Architect is to identify potential road blockers now and in the future and to mitigate these. But merely ignoring and postponing the requirements for your overall IT Architecture for being able to adopt modern IT properly will let you directly run into these road blockers.
This issue demonstrates why there needs to be an Overarching IT Architecture & Roadmap - a fully documented infrastructure picture that is shared and known throughout the company and continuously aligned with all the teams.
Overarching IT Architecture & Roadmap
Moving to the Cloud without planning to invest in the other areas is like buying a 500 horsepower motor for your daily car, but not investing in the essential requirements - e.g. the right tires, breaks, transmission etc.
You will never be able to retrieve the full potential out of it.
For your IT Infrastructure, you will need a team or person acting as an overarching Chief Architect who works together with the Enterprise Architecture team for (at least) three reasons:
You might ask - what has changed that requires someone managing the overarching IT Infrastructure and providing requirements bottom-up?
Let us take a look at some of the emerging trends which you should know about and which will significantly disrupt your current IT Infrastructure.
When having a detailed look at the diagram, you will recognize that Cloud Computing is only one part of your whole Technical Architecture Strategy, and various different topics are covered. It is similar to the Cloud maturity levels that you should know about. But here we are simply speaking of the maturity for your whole IT infrastructure, which should evolve within time.
Think of these as the next levels of IT maturity within your entire organization.
Okay - let us challenge that a bit with some questions.
This all sounds very hypothetical in the first place. Therefore, we will raise some questions to really understand the necessity and demand for these requirements. I mean - maybe there is a good reason to ignore those things, or? So -
- What value does Cloud Computing provide you if you are not able to integrate it securely in your current Infrastructure because you are still running a single security perimeter approach?
- How do you let services connect each other securely and authenticate yourself against SaaS services?
- What is the value of Cloud if your applications and your environment are not yet Cloud-native ready and does not make use of the additional value propositions that, e.g., Kubernetes, can provide with Autoscaling and Autohealing?
- How do you segregate sensitive data access within your environment and make it securely available, also from the Internet?
- How do you control and manage your devices when they are not always working from an internal network?
- How do you want to drive a Cultural Change and empower cross-functional work if the tools you have in place do not empower or even allow that?
- How do you manage the new layers of complexity like the secure service configuration, the Infrastructure build, and the Governance and Compliance requirements without Automation?
- How can you fast and securely bring data to a single place to gain further insights from it and segregate this space fast and safely from the other environments?
Okay - I think we can already stop here. Some of these questions are not even manageable or feasible with traditional IT implementations or they just create unnecessary and significant complexity. And these were just a few for the beginning to demonstrate to you the impact of these requirements, which will be necessary for the upcoming years.
Yeah - we really need to address those trends, - especially when transitioning to Cloud.
In addition to that, you will also face another issue, which we will dive into in the next article. Some old technologies need to be finally deprecated and entirely replaced to move to the next maturity levels. One reason for that is the current usage of old protocols and authentication methods, which will block modern IT use-cases. Unluckily, you will only recognize this when having a holistic view of these things, and you will only be able to deprecate technologies when you already have a structured plan and strategy.
But now back to some positive things again - even when only looking at these trends, you already have some great value propositions that you can successfully sell to the Business:
As you can see, these changes will not only provide value from a technical or security point of view, but they will also enable you to drive many topics which are coming aside with the Digital Transformation, including the change of Culture and Processes.
These requirements are simply a necessity that the IT is and will be able to fulfill the requirements from the Business now and in the future in a timely manner.
They are also required to provide the desired value out of the modern IT use cases.
And this is what needs to be understood and sold. You can not just become a digitally transformed and competitive company by just choosing for a transition to Cloud but leaving everything else aside. There needs to be a bit more than that. And this little more needs to be planned, aligned and communicated.
And here we are again at the end of this article. I hope that you enjoyed it and it was helpful.
In the next article, I will dive into the road mapping process itself and provide a simple framework to plan and instantiate this overarching strategy. It will help you to start building your roadmap that should continuously and frequently be adjusted.
Thanks for investing your valuable time on reading the article, and I want to motivate you to leave opinions, feedback, or criticism in the comments.
All the best,
David das Neves