|By Jason Bloomberg||
|June 16, 2014 05:57 AM EDT||
“We have a mess on our hands,” said John, the CIO of an international hospitality and resort enterprise I’ll call Horizon (I’ve fictionalized the story but it’s based on a combination of true stories). “Every line of business wants something different from IT. There’s lodging, resort operations, restaurant operations, facilities management – even housekeeping, and they all want their own apps.”
It’s a familiar story, of course. I needed to get to the crux of the matter. “Of all the challenges you face, what’s the biggest?” I asked. “What keeps you up at night?”
“Lack of respect,” John replied. “IT has spent so much time and money over the years before I took this role, just trying to connect everything together and keeping the lights on, that we don’t have any time or money left over to innovate,” he explained. “So now the lines of business feel they have to go around IT and buy apps on their own.”
“Which only makes the problem worse,” I added.
“Precisely.” John ran his fingers through what was left of his hair. “I need to get Horizon out of this Catch-22, where IT’s internal issues prevent us from supporting the business, so the business makes their own technology decisions, which only make our integration, portfolio management, and governance issues worse.”
Time to apply my new approach, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Technique. The Bloomberg Agile Architecture™ (BAA) Technique offers a way of thinking about and doing architecture that is laser-focused on business agility as the fundamental business driver. Yet while the BAA Technique is an approach to Enterprise Architecture, it’s not a framework or a methodology. In fact, if you’re using TOGAF or SAFe or Zachman or any number of other architectural frameworks or methodologies, the BAA Technique doesn’t require you to throw them out. Rather, the BAA Technique simplifies your choices, as it lays out a particular path through all the options facing the architect that leads to greater business agility. Here’s how it works.
Applying the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Technique within Horizon
The starting point for Horizon’s BAA effort is to cast their problems as business agility drivers. Business agility breaks down into three core priorities: responsiveness and resilience, which are the tactical, reactive drivers, and the strategic, proactive driver of innovativeness. Responsiveness means being able to respond quickly and efficiently to positive change in the business environment, while resilience suggests being able to bounce back from adverse change. Innovativeness, in contrast, means being able to introduce change into the business environment intentionally, in order to achieve strategic benefits like increased market share or penetration of new markets.
At its core, however, BAA is a technology-driven technique, as it provides specific approaches for leveraging modern technologies like Cloud Computing and Big Data Analytics to achieve the business agility goals of the organization. The goal of the architecture exercise, therefore, is to connect the dots between the enterprise agility drivers and the necessary technology changes the IT organization must make in order to achieve those goals.
It’s important to remember, however, that BAA is itself an Agile technique – that is, instead of a heavyweight, big-bang approach, BAA favors an iterative, problem-focused approach that seeks to achieve real progress in a practical, step-by-step manner. As a result, even the most intractable of legacy rats’ nests can benefit from the BAA Technique.
Conversations with Horizon’s line-of-business executives uncovered their agility drivers. They wanted to expand into new markets, improve customer satisfaction in order to increase their repeat customer rate, and add new resort offerings to better compete in existing markets. We worked through these drivers, identifying the core challenges that centered on dealing with change. Numerous challenges presented themselves, and we worked them into their BAA Roadmap (more about such roadmaps in a future Cortex newsletter).
After a few weeks helping them understand their as-is architecture as well as their BAA Roadmap, we settled on a pilot project to serve as the first iteration of their overall BAA deployment. Such pilots serve several purposes: they solve a real, albeit limited problem; they prove the technique works; they get the team up to speed; and they establish an iterative pattern by serving as the first iteration. In the case of Horizon, the pilot focused on their loyalty system.
The loyalty system is supposed to track repeat customers, in order to recognize them as Horizon’s best clientele by offering special promotions, personalized service, and other premiums. Horizon’s problem wasn’t that they didn’t have such a system; their problem was that they had too many loyalty systems. The company had grown internationally through various acquisitions over the years, which led to the addition of various loyalty technologies. On top of these corporate acquisitions, various line-of-business managers within regions had taken it upon themselves to purchase their own loyalty apps. The result was a complicated mess that often didn’t recognize a loyal customer from one geography to the next, as well as causing a variety of related problems, like inconsistent and redundant emails to customers and front desk staff who didn’t know whether someone walking up was a regular or not.
A traditional architectural solution would focus on hammering out the to-be architecture, which in this case might center on a single loyalty system that replaced the motley assortment they started with (which would be unlikely, as every line-of-business manager favors the one they’re using), or more likely an approach to integrating existing systems so that they would present to the customer as a single, coherent application. Such an effort would likely bog down when the data architects tried to rationalize the various and sundry data models that each individual loyalty app depended on. Many months and perhaps millions of dollars later, Horizon might have ended up with a working loyalty system.
That is, until the business environment changed. Perhaps due to a new acquisition. Or maybe an addition of a line of business (there was some buzz about acquiring a cruise line). Or even regulatory change. Now that tightly integrated but fragile loyalty system would no longer meet the requirements, and it would be back to square one.
With BAA, in contrast, there is no to-be architecture – or at least, not in the physical sense of architecting a working app as above. Instead, the focus of the architecture is expecting and supporting ongoing change by specifying technology that is inherently flexible. In other words, architects must begin at the Meta layer, the top layer of the BAA Abstraction Layers diagram below.
I discussed the Meta layer in my book, The Agile Architecture Revolution, as well as in other articles over the last few years. At the Meta layer, architects (and others) treat business agility as a metarequirement (a requirement that affects other requirements). The also hammer out metaprocesses (processes for creating and modifying processes) and metapolicies (policies for how to do governance). In the case of Horizon’s loyalty system, work at the Meta level focused on how they will deal with changes that might impact the loyalty system, and what processes and policies at Horizon should be put in place to deal with such change.
While architects must generally start at the Meta level, in practice each iteration should be tackled both top-down and bottom-up at the same time. The architects must have a good understanding of existing technology (working at the Physical layer) as well as the core abstractions that are in place for dealing with that technology (for example, data schemas, Web Service or other API specifications, etc.), which take place at the Abstracted layer. As the team works through the iteration, they will eventually derive recommendations for how to make changes at the Physical and Abstracted layers, but in order to make such recommendations, the architects’ focus must shift to the Dynamic layer.
The Dynamic layer is the key to the entire BAA technique – the glue that ties organizational and process efforts at achieving agility at the Meta layer to the changes Horizon must make to their application and infrastructure environment to support the agility drivers that apply to this iteration. As I explained in the last Cortex newsletter, the focus of the Dynamic layer is on creating abstract models that the underlying infrastructure can resolve at run time into the specific logical representations in the Abstracted layer. Get this step right and you’re on your way to implementing technology that is inherently flexible.
The Intellyx Take
The work so far at Horizon has really just begun, of course. Understanding that abstract models must drive the underlying technology decisions is an important first step, but we must still answer the how question – how to get technology implementations that follow the BAA technique to actually work. I’ll be filling in such important details in my Cortex newsletter as well as my DevX Agile Architecture Revolution blog over time. (If you can’t wait, then join me in one of my upcoming Bloomberg Agile Architecture Certification courses or drop me a line.)
In the meantime, take another look at the BAA Abstraction Layers diagram above – especially if you’re an architect with years of experience dealing with other, similar layer cake diagrams. True, the bottom two layers are tried and true – nothing particularly new there. To really understand why BAA is different, you must understand the top two layers: in and of themselves, and how they relate to everything else. Simply adding one layer of abstraction on top of another is also a familiar architectural rat hole, but one I’ve been careful to avoid. If you understand why that is, you’re on your way to understanding Bloomberg Agile Architecture – just as John at Horizon is well on his way to getting some respect.
Horizon is a fictitious company. Any similarity to a real company is purely coincidental. Image credit: Kevin Dooley
Opinions on how best to package and deliver applications are legion and, like many other aspects of the software world, are subject to recurring trend cycles. On the server-side, the current favorite is container delivery: a “full stack” approach in which your application and everything it needs to run are specified in a container definition. That definition is then “compiled” down to a container image and deployed by retrieving the image and passing it to a container runtime to create a running...
Oct. 13, 2015 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 318
Containers are all the rage among developers and web companies, but they also represent two very substantial benefits to larger organizations. First, they have the potential to dramatically accelerate the application lifecycle from software builds and testing to deployment and upgrades. Second they represent the first truly hybrid-approach to consuming infrastructure, allowing organizations to run the same workloads on any cloud, virtual machine or physical server. Together, they represent a ver...
Oct. 13, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 256
As operational failure becomes more acceptable to discuss within the software industry, the necessity for holding constructive, actionable postmortems increases. But most of what we know about postmortems from "pop culture" isn't actually relevant for the software systems we work on and within. In his session at DevOps Summit, J. Paul Reed will look at postmortem pitfalls, techniques, and tools you'll be able to take back to your own environment so they will be able to lay the foundations for h...
Oct. 13, 2015 06:30 PM EDT Reads: 232
SYS-CON Events announced today the Containers & Microservices Bootcamp, being held November 3-4, 2015, in conjunction with 17th Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, and @DevOpsSummit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This is your chance to get started with the latest technology in the industry. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Containers and Microservices Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, a Microsoft Regional Director, will include presentations as well as hands-on...
Oct. 13, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 207
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in high-performance, high-efficiency server, storage technology and green computing, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. 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 ...
Oct. 13, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 232
Now, with more hardware! September 21, 2015, Don MacVittie, Sr. Solutions Architect. The “continuous” trend is continuing (get it..?), and we’ll soon reach the peek of the hype cycle, with continuous everything. At the pinnacle of the hype cycle, do not be surprised to see DDOS attacks re-branded as “continuous penetration testing!” and a fee … Read More Continuous Provisioning
Oct. 13, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 126
Despite all the talk about public cloud services and DevOps, you would think the move to cloud for enterprises is clear and simple. But in a survey of almost 1,600 IT decision makers across the USA and Europe, the state of the cloud in enterprise today is still fraught with considerable frustration. The business case for apps in the real world cloud is hybrid, bimodal, multi-platform, and difficult. Download this report commissioned by NTT Communications to see the insightful findings – registra...
Oct. 13, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 415
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet condit...
Oct. 13, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 729
Our guest on the podcast this week is Jason Bloomberg, President at Intellyx. When we build services we want them to be lightweight, stateless and scalable while doing one thing really well. In today's cloud world, we're revisiting what to takes to make a good service in the first place. Listen in to learn why following "the book" doesn't necessarily mean that you're solving key business problems.
Oct. 13, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,348
Saviynt Inc. has announced the availability of the next release of Saviynt for AWS. The comprehensive security and compliance solution provides a Command-and-Control center to gain visibility into risks in AWS, enforce real-time protection of critical workloads as well as data and automate access life-cycle governance. The solution enables AWS customers to meet their compliance mandates such as ITAR, SOX, PCI, etc. by including an extensive risk and controls library to detect known threats and b...
Oct. 13, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 329
DevOps Summit, taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and Javits Center in New York City, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
Oct. 13, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 201
Overgrown applications have given way to modular applications, driven by the need to break larger problems into smaller problems. Similarly large monolithic development processes have been forced to be broken into smaller agile development cycles. Looking at trends in software development, microservices architectures meet the same demands. Additional benefits of microservices architectures are compartmentalization and a limited impact of service failure versus a complete software malfunction....
Oct. 13, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 359
The last decade was about virtual machines, but the next one is about containers. Containers enable a service to run on any host at any time. Traditional tools are starting to show cracks because they were not designed for this level of application portability. Now is the time to look at new ways to deploy and manage applications at scale. In his session at @DevOpsSummit, Brian “Redbeard” Harrington, a principal architect at CoreOS, will examine how CoreOS helps teams run in production. Attende...
Oct. 13, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,343
For it to be SOA – let alone SOA done right – we need to pin down just what "SOA done wrong" might be. First-generation SOA with Web Services and ESBs, perhaps? But then there's second-generation, REST-based SOA. More lightweight and cloud-friendly, but many REST-based SOA practices predate the microservices wave. Today, microservices and containers go hand in hand – only the details of "container-oriented architecture" are largely on the drawing board – and are not likely to look much like S...
Oct. 13, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 636
DevOps has often been described in terms of CAMS: Culture, Automation, Measuring, Sharing. While we’ve seen a lot of focus on the “A” and even on the “M”, there are very few examples of why the “C" is equally important in the DevOps equation. In her session at @DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, of F5 Networks, will explore HTTP/1 and HTTP/2 along with Microservices to illustrate why a collaborative culture between Dev, Ops, and the Network is critical to ensuring success.
Oct. 13, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 260
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo in Silicon Valley. 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 Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading in...
Oct. 13, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 228
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively.
Oct. 13, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 296
Docker is hot. However, as Docker container use spreads into more mature production pipelines, there can be issues about control of Docker images to ensure they are production-ready. Is a promotion-based model appropriate to control and track the flow of Docker images from development to production? In his session at DevOps Summit, Fred Simon, Co-founder and Chief Architect of JFrog, will demonstrate how to implement a promotion model for Docker images using a binary repository, and then show h...
Oct. 13, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 328
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...
Oct. 13, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 228
As we increasingly rely on technology to improve the quality and efficiency of our personal and professional lives, software has become the key business differentiator. Organizations must release software faster, as well as ensure the safety, security, and reliability of their applications. The option to make trade-offs between time and quality no longer exists—software teams must deliver quality and speed. To meet these expectations, businesses have shifted from more traditional approaches of d...
Oct. 13, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 296