Enterprise Architecture – When is good enough, good enough?

In a conversation with a large customer recently we were discussions their enterprise architecture.  A new CIO had come in and wants to move them to a converged infrastructure.  I digging into what their environment was going to look like as they migrated, and why they wanted to make that move.  It came down to a good enough design versus maximizing hardware efficiency.  Rather than trying to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of the systems, they were looking at how could they deploy a standard, and get a high degree of efficiency but the focus was more on time to market with new features.

My first foray into enterprise architecture was early in my career at a casino.  I moved from a DBA role to a storage engineer position vacated by my new manager.  I spend most of my time designing for performance to resolve poorly coded applications.  As applications improved, I started to push application teams and vendors to fix the code on their side.  As I started to work on the virtualization infrastructure design for this and other companies, I took pride in driving CPU and memory as hard as I could.  Getting as close to maxing out the systems while providing enough overhead for failover.  We kept putting more and more virtual systems into fewer and fewer servers.  In hindsight we spent far more time designing, deploying, and managing our individual snowflake hosts and guests that what we were saving in capital costs.  We were masters of “straining the gnat to swallow the camel”.

Good enterprise design should always take advantage of new technologies.  Enterprise architects must be looking at roadmaps to prevent obsolescence.  With the increased rate of change, just think about unikernel vs containers vs virtual machines, we are moving faster than our hardware refresh cycles on all of our infrastructure.

This doesn’t mean that converged or hyper-converged infrastructure is better or worse, it is an option, but one that is restrictive since the vendor must certify your chosen hypervisor, management software, automation software, etc. with each part of the system they put together.  On the other hand, building your own requires you do that.
The best solution is going to come with compromises.  We cannot continue to look at virtual machines or services per physical host.  Time to market for new or updated features are the new infrastructure metric.  The application teams ability to deploy packaged or developed software is what matters.  For those of us who grew up as infrastructure engineers and architects, we need to change our thinking, change our focus, and continue to add value by being partners to our development and application admin brethren.  That is how we truly add business value.

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Enterprise Architecture – When is good enough, good enough?

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