Framework For Better Decisions - InformationWeek

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11/25/2003
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Framework For Better Decisions

As technology environments become more complex, an architectural framework Is needed to guide future investments

Forward-thinking companies look for ways to adapt to the evolving tech landscape, investing in technology that has high business value while also containing costs. That's tough in today's environment because infrastructures have become highly complex, characterized by overlapping systems and applications and a general lack of integration.

Making the most of these investments requires a master blueprint: a set of guidelines and practices for a technology infrastructure that could be called an enterprise reference architecture.

These architectures have existed for years. Vendors such as IBM have been providing them for decades. But, until recently, their effectiveness has tended to be limited--primarily because of a lack of standards and supporting technologies and an inability to facilitate closed-loop enterprise life cycles. With the evolution of technology, related standards, and their close relationship with business systems, new opportunities emerge for businesses to maximize the long-term benefits of adopting a common enterprise reference architecture.

Today, a company's infrastructure includes everything from the network-interface cards and hard drives it owns to the business processes that drive business forward. The modern reference architecture is service-oriented, event-driven, and aligned with life-cycle-support processes. In addition, it supports assembly and integration and encompasses the need to leverage existing applications and infrastructure.

Using this approach, companies can save money by truly reusing existing applications and building new services that can be leveraged throughout the business. There are significant top-line benefits, too: the ability to react faster to changing conditions, faster than was possible in the past and faster than the competition, and, at the same time, let users be closely involved with--and even own--changes in business processes.

These business processes can be used to assemble apps rather than requiring declarative programming and reduce the time spent developing custom code and complex applications. This can produce significant cost savings over time, as more of a company's existing investments in technology and systems are leveraged rather than replaced.

To understand the benefits and key characteristics of the modern enterprise reference architecture, it's important to understand each of the architectural constructs that comprise it.

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