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Enterprise Transformation, Enterprise Architecture, SOA, a Splash of Cloud
Impressions from the Open Group Conference

This week, I've been at The Open Group Conference in San Francisco. The theme was Enterprise Transformation which, in simple terms, means changing how your business works to take advantage of the latest developments in IT.

Evidence of these developments is all around. For example, when I took a break and went for coffee and a sandwich to a little cafe on Pine and Leavenworth, it seemed to be run by and for the Millennial Generation. True to type, my server pulled out a cellphone with a device attached through which I swiped my credit card. An app read my screen-scrawled signature and the transaction was complete.

Then to make dinner reservations, the hotel concierge tapped a few keys on her terminal and, presto, we had a window table at a restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf. No lengthy phone negotiations with the maitre d'. We were just connected with the resource that we needed quickly and efficiently.

The power of ubiquitous technology to transform the enterprise was the theme of the inspirational plenary presentation given by Andy Mulholland, Global CTO and Corporate Vice President at Capgemini. Mobility, the cloud, and big data are the three powerful technical forces that must be harnessed by the architect to move the business to smarter operation and new markets.

If you had thought five years ago that no technical trend could possibly generate more interest and excitement than SOA, cloud computing would now be proving you wrong.

Jeanne Ross, Director and Principal Research Scientist at MIT's Center for Information System Research, shared her recipe for architecting business success with examples drawn from several major companies. Indomitable and inimitable, she always challenges her audience to think through the issues. This time we responded with: "Don't small companies need architecture too?" Of course they do, was the answer, but the architecture of a big corporation is very different from that of a corner cafe.

Corporations don't come much bigger than Nissan. Celso Guiotoko, Corporate VP and CIO at the Nissan Motor Company, told us how Nissan is using enterprise architecture for business transformation. Highlights included the concept of information capitalization, the rationalization of the application portfolio through service-oriented architecture (SOA) and reusable services, and the delivery of technology resource through a private cloud platform.

The set of stimulating plenary presentations on the first day of the conference was completed by Lauren States, VP and CTO Cloud Computing and Growth Initiatives at IBM. Everyone now expects business results from technical change, and there is huge pressure on the people involved to deliver results that meet these expectations. IT enablement is one part of the answer, but it must be matched by business process excellence and values-based culture for real productivity and growth.

My role in The Open Group is to support our work on cloud computing and SOA, and these activities took all my attention after the initial plenary. If you had thought five years ago that no technical trend could possibly generate more interest and excitement than SOA, cloud computing would now be proving you wrong.

Interest in SOA continues
ut interest in SOA continues, and we had a SOA stream including presentations of forward thinking on how to use SOA to deliver agility, and on SOA governance, as well as presentations describing and explaining the use of key Open Group SOA standards and guides: the Service Integration Maturity Model (OSIMM), the SOA Reference Architecture, and the Guide to using TOGAF for SOA.

We then moved into the cloud stream with a presentation by Mike Walker of Microsoft on why enterprise architecture must lead cloud strategy and planning. The “why” was followed by the “how.” Zapthink's Jason Bloomberg described Representational State Transfer (REST), which many now see as a key foundational principle for cloud architecture. But perhaps it is not the only principle. A later presentation suggested a three-tier approach with the client tier, including mobile devices, accessing RESTful information resources through a middle tier of agents that compose resources and carry out transactions.

In the evening we had a CloudCamp, hosted by The Open Group and conducted as a separate event by the CloudCamp organization. The original CloudCamp concept was of an "un-conference" where early adopters of cloud computing technologies exchange ideas. Its founder, Dave Nielsen, is now planning to set up a demo center where those adopters can experiment with setting up private clouds. This transition from idea to experiment reflects the changing status of mainstream cloud adoption.

The public conference streams were followed by a meeting of the Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group. This is currently pursuing nine separate projects to develop standards and guidance for architects using cloud computing.

A later presentation suggested a three-tier approach with the client tier, including mobile devices, accessing RESTful information resources through a middle tier of agents.

The meeting in San Francisco focused on one of these - the Cloud Computing Reference Architecture. It compared submissions from five companies, also taking into account ongoing work at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with the aim of creating a base from which to create an Open Group reference architecture for cloud computing. This gave a productive finish to a busy week of information gathering and discussion.

Ralph Hitz of Visana, a health insurance company based in Switzerland, made an interesting comment on our reference architecture discussion. He remarked that we were not seeking to change or evolve the NIST service and deployment models. This may seem boring, but it is true and it is right. Cloud computing is now where the automobile was in 1920. We're pretty much agreed that it will have four wheels and be powered by gasoline. The business and economic impact is yet to come.

So now I'm on my way to the airport for the flight home. I checked in online, and my boarding pass is on my cellphone. Big companies, as well as small ones, now routinely use mobile technology, and my airline has a frequent-flyer app. It's just a shame that they can't manage a decent cup of coffee.

This guest post comes courtesy of Chris Harding, Forum Director for SOA and Semantic Interoperability at The Open Group.

You may also be interested in:

About Chris Harding
Dr. Chris Harding leads the SOA Working Group at The Open Group - an open forum of customers and suppliers of IT products and services. In addition, he is a director of the UDEF Forum and manages The Open Group?s work on semantic interoperability. He has been with The Open Group for over 10 years. Dr. Harding began his career in communications software research and development. He then spent nine years as a consultant, specializing in voice and data communications, before moving to his current role. Recognizing the importance of giving enterprises quality information at the point of use, he sees information interoperability as the next major challenge, and frequently speaks or writes on this topic. Dr. Harding has a PhD in mathematical logic, and is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS) and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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