Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, VictorOps Blog, Derek Weeks, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: Java IoT, Industrial IoT, Microservices Expo, Open Source Cloud, IoT User Interface, Apache

Java IoT: Blog Feed Post

Agile Architecture

The platform architecture defines common services that manage business delivery

The English language is well known for its subtlety. Sometimes it’s a delight, but on other occasions it can be very frustrating. If I use the term Gothic Architecture you will immediately understand I am describing a style of architecture that flourished in medieval times. And if like me you are interested in ecclesiastical architecture you will know that this style was used in many of the great cathedrals and churches across Europe, which were distinctive because of key architectural patterns that enabled great increases in height and internal light of the buildings without increasing the size of supporting pillars.

Now if I use the term Agile Architecture, what am I referring to? In today’s Agile world I would hazard a guess that most readers will think I am referring to the architecture techniques and tasks undertaken in the context of an Agile software development project, not the collection of patterns and practices that enable agile business systems. That is, an architecture that enables agility.

This potential for miscommunication is a core issue for enterprises. There is ample evidence that Agile Architecture is a primary contributor to business agility, yet we do not have a well understood architecture management system that integrates with Agile methods.

Let’s use an example readers may be familiar with. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously [1]issued an edict that laid down some key architecture principles to Amazon development teams that I will summarize as:
· All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
· Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces. There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed.
· It doesn't matter what technology they use.
· All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable.
· No exceptions.

What Bezos did here was to lay down key business and technology architecture principles that you might reasonably conclude were central to the extraordinary level of business agility that we have seen demonstrated by Amazon.com, Inc. That widely circulated edict contained the foundations of the Amazon reference architecture.  

In the October 2004 CBDI Journal[2] we commented, “Two of the most successful and enduring dotcom start-ups, Amazon and eBay, now expose their core applications as Web Services. In doing so they have created a new class of platform that could have a profound impact on end-user organizations and IT vendors alike.”

And so the reference architecture became the enabler of growth and agility for the Amazon business, not we understand[3] as a grand plan, but through natural technological evolution. The services formed the platform that allowed the extraordinary expansion of the Amazon business that I would be certain not even Jeff Bezos imagined, back then in 2004. That is real business agility, and it was delivered by smart architecture backed up by clear policies and realized by agile processes.

Although Amazon has clearly evolved in pursuit of solutions to specific business opportunities and challenges, it’s also clear they have established a de facto architecture and architecture management system that guides the work of the many product delivery teams and ensures consistency of approach where it’s required. Let’s consider how an enterprise might establish a similar agile architecture management system.

A reference architecture articulates primary principles that are typically central to an entire enterprise. Principles should be focused on establishing the product and solution independent environment in which agility can be delivered and maintained, so they would be stable over time. We might refer to reference architecture as a Level 1 architecture perspective (L1) that exists purely as a set of models and guidelines.

Larger enterprises should explore the business value potential of platform based architecture as a mechanism to deliver cross enterprise consistency of core reference architecture behaviors and to enable closer integration with the wider ecosystem including customers, suppliers, end consumers etc. This is an extended management services platform which encapsulates the technology infrastructure and enables rapid delivery of business services.

The platform architecture defines common services that manage business delivery including security, life cycle management, change management, release management and operations, as well as catalogs, eCommerce, B2B, regulatory control and risk management, standardizing these key capabilities and reducing the footprint of business domain services. The platform will also manage important behaviors that deliver on specific business goals such as scalability and availability. For example, Amazon services are usually very fine grained, specifically to reduce the scope of each service in order to facilitate narrow focus SLAs and maximize scalability by reducing individual service complexity. We might refer to platform architecture as a Level 2 architecture perspective, engineered to be relatively stable in support of  large numbers of business services and consumers, but also engineered to evolve and respond rapidly to business and technology change. Not all enterprises will see business value in making their platform and business services available to their ecosystem, but some will.

Enterprises clearly vary considerably in their make up in terms of geographic and organizational, product and process standardization and differentiation, but typically there will be considerable potential for an inventory of shared assets that leverage agile architecture to support business agility. The assets may include:
· Common services, frameworks and components that are designed to deliver common behaviors to all parts of the enterprise. For example core services that establish genuinely enterprise wide services such as Customer, Ticket, eCommerce etc; services that deliver business value by standardizing common business services and processes.

· Configurable services, frameworks and components that are designed to provide common behaviors but are engineered to be customizable in local situations to accommodate many aspects of localization ranging from the simple – taxation, geography etc, to the complex – variant ordering patterns, variations in event and process sequence dictated by local de facto business practices. Configurable services may provide business value simply by providing reusable components, or they may establish a common core of business process and information that establishes common reporting and regulatory control in a local context, or both. Configurable services may also be an important time to market strategy for service providers who customize their services for each client or customer group.

· Information architecture and services. Establishing a coherent approach to information is commonly a major issue for large enterprises and this architecture level defines an integrated approach for structured and unstructured (big) data, transactional and reference, enterprise reporting and regulatory control and so on.

Common and Configurable assets together with the Information Architecture might form a Level 3 architecture perspective and be widely applicable across a large, distributed enterprise.  

We then have two further levels which are closely related, Family Architecture and Product Line Architecture. Whilst many architects chose to view Family and Product Line as synonyms, I recommend that they are kept separate. A Family architecture is a domain framework that is much more specialized that L3 assets that would be applicable on a broader basis. The Family architecture establishes core business (domain) services and possibly other artifacts specific to the domain, where the domain is likely to be a subject area or a cluster of major types. For example Customer, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Risk etc. Families are also commonly acquired products.

In contrast Product Line architecture is what it says – it’s the architecture for a product offering. The product is an offering that has direct relationship to end customer revenue and usually continuity of purpose over multiple releases. Although from a narrow technical perspective the Product and Family architectures might be similar, the way a product is managed must mirror the business product life cycle. Family architectures may therefore be engineered for stability, whereas, depending on the industry sector, product line architectures may be engineered for maximum agility and minimum response time.  

Finally we have the Solution architecture level, the architecture specific to solution project delivery, where the focus is on feature architecture and integrating solution architecture with the Level 1 to 5 architecture perspectives. It’s important to note that where product line architecture is used, then this may subsume the Solution architecture.

These six architecture levels provide us with a nomenclature for agile architecture that will be central to managing agility into the delivered product/solution. The architecture perspective guides the structure of programs and projects and the incorporation of architecture and reuse goals into delivery charters. The architecture also provides traceability and governance over realization of core architecture principles.

The question of how Agile Architecture integrates with Agile delivery is likely to prove contentious because architecture introduces a form of direction that contradicts Agile concepts. Yet the lessons from Amazon are insightful. The most senior business management need to be fully engaged and actively leading the development of architectural direction. Further in large enterprises customer project demand needs to be managed and aligned with business strategy and architectural direction.

There’s no reason why these Demand and Definition processes shouldn’t adopt Agile concepts, notably cross functional teams, time boxes and backlogs. The outcomes should be excellent visibility and traceability of key strategies and policies that provide real clarity of purpose for projects, that will increase the probability of success. In a typical large enterprise use of existing (or well understood) organizational concepts, adjusted to use aspects of Agile methods as discussed, will meet less organizational resistance. For example:  

1. Architecture Review Board (ARB) or equivalent, a cross functional team (senior representatives of business, product management, architecture and delivery), that provide direction and funding to all architecture development.
2. Design Authority (DA), also a cross functional team (domain specific expert level representatives of business, product management, architecture and delivery), that transform raw customer demand stream into project charters and manage the portfolio view. It is the DA that takes responsibility for aggregating and decomposing customer and strategic demand, chartering Common, Product Line and Family architecture, typically as integral elements of delivery projects, which can demonstrate business value.
3. Investigatory architecture projects – short duration projects that validate assumptions prior to chartering composite architecture/delivery projects. Sometimes carried out as part of a Definition Phase activity concurrent with outline requirements and knowledge discovery. Using patterns as a mechanism to increase consistency of architecture decisions and communicate them to delivery projects at sensible level of detail that is useful to delivery teams.  Recommend includes delivery team members as appropriate.
Note this is a recursive model, and the process may executed at enterprise and program level.

You may ask where Enterprise Architecture is in this. The answer is that enterprise architecture is a role and responsibility that must coordinate and govern all levels of architecture. Enterprise Architects are most likely to be assigned to a specific architecture perspective level. The notion of, “one architecture to rule them all” really doesn’t exist.
Each enterprise should develop its own architecture management approach, and integrate this into an end to end architecture, delivery and governance process. The term Agile Architecture should be used to describe and deliver architecture that facilitates the agile business by compliance with reference, platform and other architectures that facilitate evolution, customization and plug and play. Faster cycle time and quality outcomes are then a function of both the reusable patterns and parts available for assembly and the Agile delivery process.  

In medieval times the builders of the Gothic cathedrals didn’t start their designs from scratch. But equally they didn’t have finely detailed (ivory tower) plans – the technology didn’t exist to support that. Master builders moved from city to city bringing their proven architecture in their heads, often together with experienced craftsmen, to new projects. Craftsmen and master builders together tried out new designs and gradually evolved core patterns such as the flying buttress, which became standard components in cathedrals across Europe. Sometimes the great buildings fell down during construction and the builders had to adapt the architecture and try again. They were truly early adopters of Agile methods as they combined architecture and build in what clearly was from time to time an empirical delivery approach, but they also had their equivalent of a reference architecture and patterns that enabled systematic reuse of proven designs. Of course their delivery cycle time was a little longer than today’s Agile project!


Talk to Everware-CBDIabout the Agile Enterprise Workshop. This is currently available as an in-house, intensive workshop. Public scheduled classes will hopefully follow next year.




[1] Amazon and eBay Web Services, The New Enterprise Applications? By Lawrence Wilkes, CBDI Journal October 2004


[2] Inadvertently published by Steve Yegge, 2011, in a comparison of Google and Amazon practices. http://upalc.com/google-amazon.php

[3] Werner Vogels, 2006, SOA creates order out of chaos @ Amazon, Rich Seeley, Search SOA

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By David Sprott

David Sprott is a consultant, researcher and educator specializing in service oriented architecture, application modernization and cloud computing. Since 1997 David founded and led the well known think tank CBDI Forum providing unique research and guidance around loose coupled architecture, technologies and practices to F5000 companies and governments worldwide. As CEO of Everware-CBDI International a UK based corporation, he directs the global research and international consulting operations of the leading independent advisors on Service Oriented Application Modernization.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
In the world of DevOps there are ‘known good practices’ – aka ‘patterns’ – and ‘known bad practices’ – aka ‘anti-patterns.' Many of these patterns and anti-patterns have been developed from real world experience, especially by the early adopters of DevOps theory; but many are more feasible in theory than in practice, especially for more recent entrants to the DevOps scene. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at 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. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, will discuss how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer...
Much of the value of DevOps comes from a (renewed) focus on measurement, sharing, and continuous feedback loops. In increasingly complex DevOps workflows and environments, and especially in larger, regulated, or more crystallized organizations, these core concepts become even more critical. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, will show how, by focusing on 'metrics that matter,' you can provide objective, transparent, and meaningfu...
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at Sapphire Ventures Next-Gen Tech Stack Forum in San Francisco. Obviously, I was excited to join the discussion, but as a participant the event crystallized not only where the larger software development market is relative to microservices, container technologies (like Docker), continuous integration and deployment; but also provided insight into where DevOps is heading in the coming years.
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
In a crowded world of popular computer languages, platforms and ecosystems, Node.js is one of the hottest. According to w3techs.com, Node.js usage has gone up 241 percent in the last year alone. Retailers have taken notice and are implementing it on many levels. I am going to share the basics of Node.js, and discuss why retailers are using it to reduce page load times and improve server efficiency. I’ll talk about similar developments such as Docker and microservices, and look at several compani...
Admittedly, two years ago I was a bulk contributor to the DevOps noise with conversations rooted in the movement around culture, principles, and goals. And while all of these elements of DevOps environments are important, I’ve found that the biggest challenge now is a lack of understanding as to why DevOps is beneficial. It’s getting the wheels going, or just taking the next step. The best way to start on the road to change is to take a look at the companies that have already made great headway ...
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
From the conception of Docker containers to the unfolding microservices revolution we see today, here is a brief history of what I like to call 'containerology'. In 2013, we were solidly in the monolithic application era. I had noticed that a growing amount of effort was going into deploying and configuring applications. As applications had grown in complexity and interdependency over the years, the effort to install and configure them was becoming significant. But the road did not end with a ...
I have an article in the recently released “DZone Guide to Building and Deploying Applications on the Cloud” entitled “Fullstack Engineering in the Age of Hybrid Cloud”. In this article I discuss the need and skills of a Fullstack Engineer with relation to troubleshooting and repairing complex, distributed hybrid cloud applications. My recent experiences with troubleshooting issues with my Docker WordPress container only reinforce the details I wrote about in this piece. Without my comprehensive...
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
Small teams are more effective. The general agreement is that anything from 5 to 12 is the 'right' small. But of course small teams will also have 'small' throughput - relatively speaking. So if your demand is X and the throughput of a small team is X/10, you probably need 10 teams to meet that demand. But more teams also mean more effort to coordinate and align their efforts in the same direction. So, the challenge is how to harness the power of small teams and yet orchestrate multiples of them...
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.