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Is Enterprise Architecture Still Relevant for Cloud Computing?

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A new Deloitte debate "Does Cloud Computing Make Enterprise Architecture Irrelevant?" starts by asking if companies can get rid of EA troubles:

The world of business technology is shifting to "almost enterprise" applications - a network of smaller, more agile applications that are often hosted remotely, as in cloud computing. With less reliance on massive, monolithic enterprise solutions, it’s tempting to think that the hard work of creating a sustainable enterprise architecture (EA) is also behind us. So, as many companies make the move to cloud computing, they anticipate leaving behind a lot of the headaches of EA. But is that how things will really play out in the real world?

The debate has a wealth of points and counter-points to this statement. The proponents of replacing EA with the cloud assert that:

We’re outsourcing our EA headaches. No more having to manage the underlying IT infrastructure, operating systems and software patches... Vendors will bring best-of-class standards and processes that we can adopt. No need to fix ours... Our move to cloud is about being agile and nimble. Enterprise architecture is the polar opposite of that. If we add a layer of EA onto the cloud, we’ll lose most of the benefits.

The counter-points here is that:

Even when you push jobs and processes into the cloud, none of it will be standalone. Enterprise architecture will still have to govern how everything works together and supports the business... No matter how great the tools are or where they’re housed, you still have to define and manage the relationships and dependencies between mission, processes, technologies and business initiatives.

Some of the Deloitte practitioners weighted on the debate. According to Scott Rosenberger, although moving some of the processes to the cloud will make some of the technical implementation issues easier,

... it doesn’t change the underlying reality that there has to be a strategy for putting together all the people, processes and tools that the cloud supports... That means IT isn’t off the hook at all when it comes to EA. If anything, this complicates things.

Omar Trujillo Segura supports Rosenberg by stating that EA still remains relevant:

No matter what tool you use, the core problem isn’t the technology. It's in defining the relationships between all the different components of their vision, from business processes to technology. And that’s where EA comes in.

And Florian Quarre sums it up by saying that:

... cloud solutions may have a big role to play in reducing costs... But these new solutions have to fit a clearly defined systems need that has been spelled out in an operational model. This is where EA comes in; because selecting any technology outside of a business-driven enterprise framework is risky business.

Reacting to this debate David Linthicum writes that he is disturbed that this question has been asked at all. In his opinion:

Cloud computing does not replace enterprise architecture. It does not provide "infinite scalability," it does not "cost pennies a day," you can't "get there in an hour" - it won't iron my shirts either. It's exciting technology that holds the promise of providing more effective, efficient, and elastic computing platforms, but we're taking this hype to silly levels these days, and my core concern is that the cloud may not be able to meet these overblown expectations.

New technologies are great and we are all eager to use them. But using technology just for the sake of technology does not make sense. Technology use should be driven not by its "coolness factor", but rather by business requirements and underlying enterprise architecture. Indeed, moving some enterprise applications to the cloud can make some infrastructure woes go away, but badly designed solutions won’t be improved by moving to the cloud.

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