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COM-17-1885 R. Schulte

Research Note 31 July 2002


Technology Architecture: 'Bricks' of Enterprise Architecture Modern technology architecture differs from traditional technology architecture because it accommodates technically diverse individual applications while bringing order to the technology of the connecting integration grid.
A technology architecture — sometimes called"platform architecture," "system architecture" or "IT architecture" — is the most common expression of enterprise architecture. This is essentially a process for developing a standard "buy list" that specifies the hardware platforms, operating systems, database management systems (DBMSs), development tools, programming languages, middleware, e-mail services, security facilities, directory orother products that are approved for use in the enterprise. In an open-systems approach, the technology architecture is focused on multilateral standards (such as those from the American National Standards Institute, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the European Computer Manufacturers Association, The Open Group, the Object Management Group orthe World Wide Web Consortium) instead of naming specific products. An open-systems architecture will theoretically reduce vendor lock-in. However, enterprises have had limited success with this approach because the standards are forever incomplete and vendors do not deliver products that can be substituted for each other, even when they partially conform to the same standards. Since themid-1990s, most enterprises have reduced their efforts to implement open-systems standards and have largely returned to their previous practice of using a vendor-dependent technology buy list. IS management traditionally uses some combination of rewards and penalties to induce various groups to conform to the standards recommended by the technology architecture. This approach is somewhat successful withina set of business units that report to and are funded by one management chain. Within this limited scope, real benefits are achieved by minimizing technical diversity through architecture: • • • The technical staff can maintain knowledge of fewer different products, thereby reducing staffing and training requirements. The applications are more easily integrated with each other to the extent thatthey have the more aspects in common. Enterprises can realize economies of scale by buying larger quantities of a product from a single vendor — for example, buy an enterprise license at a discount over the cost of individual purchases.

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Project leaders save effort in the procurement process because, after the initial product choice is made, subsequent purchases will not require reinvestigating the competing alternatives.

However, managers and developers have many reasons why they will not conform to a uniformtechnology architecture throughout the virtual enterprise: • Applications inherently differ in their technical characteristics. For example, it is impractical to use the same development tools, programming languages and DBMSs for high-volume, mission-critical transaction processing applications that will last for 10 years and for single-user business intelligence applications that will be discarded...
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