Enterprise Architects Must Plan for SaaS - InformationWeek

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Commentary
1/29/2008
11:40 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Enterprise Architects Must Plan for SaaS

This week I'm speaking at the Open Group Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference in San Francisco. I did the Keynote presentation at the summer conference in Austin, Texas, and will be providing the Keynote at this conference as well. So, what does enterprise architecture have to do with SaaS? Plenty, and those who plan, work, and build their enterprise architectures today will ignore SaaS at their peril.

This week I'm speaking at the Open Group Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference in San Francisco. I did the Keynote presentation at the summer conference in Austin, Texas, and will be providing the Keynote at this conference as well. So, what does enterprise architecture have to do with SaaS? Plenty, and those who plan, work, and build their enterprise architectures today will ignore SaaS at their peril.SaaS fits into enterprise architecture as any application would. Other systems, new and old, have to interact with SaaS-delivered systems and they are indeed part of the architecture. Many enterprise architects are in denial about this fact and ignore the use of SaaS, in essence, considering it a Web site rather than an enterprise application. Can't do that.

Indeed, the use of SaaS will only expand as the years go on, and many Global 2000 enterprises could find that 20 percent to 30 percent of their enterprise applications are SaaS-delivered and need to function like any other enterprise system, working and playing well with others - users, legacy systems, etc.

There are a few key tricks that make this synergy easy:

First, make sure to consider SaaS applications when defining common semantic models that span the enterprise. In many instances they are left out of that analysis and suffer, as a result, for a lack of integration with existing systems and no common mechanism for dealing with SaaS as abstract and common data.

Second, define the interfaces (APIs and Web services) that the SaaS vendors provide. Do this before you select a vendor, not after. Many enterprise architects are stuck with SaaS-delivered systems that have no clear way of talking to other systems. If you find yourself in this situation, you'll have a great deal of work ahead of you. Third, get in the mindset of SaaS-delivered systems being enterprise applications, knowing they have to be managed as such. In many instances, enterprise architects are in a state of denial when it comes to SaaS, despite the fact that these SaaS-delivered systems are becoming mission-critical. If you don't believe that, just see what happens if Salesforce.com has an outage.

Finally, consider SaaS when doing long-term planning. SaaS systems are going to change and morph over time, and they will be very different than they are today. Thus, work with your provider and make sure they hear you, and you hear them, as far as future direction is concerned. In short, consider SaaS when planning for the next generations of your enterprise architecture.This week I'm speaking at the Open Group Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference in San Francisco. I did the Keynote presentation at the summer conference in Austin, Texas, and will be providing the Keynote at this conference as well. So, what does enterprise architecture have to do with SaaS? Plenty, and those who plan, work, and build their enterprise architectures today will ignore SaaS at their peril.

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