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What is Systems Architecture

5 October 2008 3 Comments
WhatIsSystemsArchitecture
Photo by Wolfgang Staudt

What is systems architecture and why do we care?  A systems architecture supports the highest layers of the enterprise architecture and it helps keep the enterprise architecture aligned to the business.  In A Practical Guide to Enterprise Architecture (Coad Series), James McGovern, Scott W. Ambler, Michael E. Stevens, James Linn, Vikas Sharan, and Elias K. Jo write about systems architecture.

What is a System
A system is the structure and constellation of machines, applications and network resources to support a particular function.  McGovern, Ambler, Stevens, Linn, Sharan, and Jo write:

A system is an interconnected set of machines, applications, and network resources.  Systems architecture unifies that set by imposing structure on the system.  More importantly, this structure aligns the functionality of the system with the goals of the business.

What is Systems Architecture
Systems architecture is a process and a discipline.  McGovern, Ambler, Stevens, Linn, Sharan, and Jo write:

Systems architecture can best be thought of as both a process and a discipline to produce efficient and effective information systems.  It is a process because a set of steps is followed to produce or change the architecture of a system.  it is a discipline because a body of knowledge informs people as to the most effective way to design.

Enterprise Architecture Model
McGovern, Ambler, Stevens, Linn, Sharan, and Jo suggest the following model for Enterprise Architecture:

  1. Business
  2. Information
  3. Operational
  4. Organizational
  5. Architectural
  6. Infrastructural

In this model, the Infrastructural layer is on the bottom and it supports the layers above.

Systems Architecture Supports the Highest Layers of the Enterprise Architecture
The purpose of the systems architecture is to support the highest layers of the enterprise architecture.  McGovern, Ambler, Stevens, Linn, Sharan, and Jo write:

The basic purpose of the systems architecture is to support the highest layers of the enterprise architecture.  In many companies, the software and hardware represent a significant portion of the enterprise’s total assets.  It is important that enterprise architects do not equate their duties with the objects, the applications, or the machines that comprise their domain.  The fundamental purpose is to support and further the business objectives of the enterprise.  Hardware and software objects are fundamentally transient and exist only to further the purposes of the business.

Systems Architecture Keeps the Enterprise Architecture Aligned to the Business
The systems architecture helps align the enterprise architecture to the business. McGovern, Ambler, Stevens, Linn, Sharan, and Jo write:

Systems architecture is also used as part of the process of keeping the enterprise architecture aligned with the business goals and processes of the organization.  It is important to understand the technical details of the infrastructure and the application running within it but also to have the knowledge to participate in the process of architectural change with the enterprise architecture team.  That involves the following:  1). defining the structure, relationships, views, assumptions, and relationales for the existing systems architecture and the changes in relationships, views, assumptions, and rationales that are involved in any changes required for moving from what is to what is desired.  2) Creation of models, guides, templates, and design standards for use in developing the systems architecture.

Key Take Aways
Here’s my key take aways:

  • A system is the structure and constellation of machines, applications and network resources to support a particular function.
  • Systems architecture is a process and a discipline.
  • Enterprise architecture includes: business, information, operational, organizational, architectural, and infrastructural layers.
  • The purpose of the systems architecture is to support the highest layers of the enterprise architecture.
  • The systems architecture helps align the enterprise architecture to the business.

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3 Comments »

  • Enterprise Architect said:

    JD:

    You are using the wrong books to get an understanding of Enterprise Architecture. “System Architecture” does not support the first “layer” of Enterprise Architecture – it is the result of transforming the business understanding into something else, of which a system is one of many transformations.

  • JD said:

    It sounds like you’re saying systems arch is the result of transforming the business understanding into something else. Can you elaborate?

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