Many enterprises have embraced architecture. But it is not so obvious that some in the industry have also been engaging in a kind of “meta-architecture.” This is not unlike the work that particle physicists do as they test and extend their theories with the help of huge particle accelerators, resulting in the continued evolution of the standard model.
Modeling the models is difficult work. The challenge is to bring the wisdom of experience together with the possibilities of theory, molding them into precious archetypes in the fiery forge of a specific enterprise. The resulting model would be the standard model of architecture for that organization. This kind of meta-architecture work is what we can refer to as “quarkitecture”; it is similar to the quest in particle physics for the fundamental particles.
But we can abstract beyond a single organization and make more sweeping generalizations for at least some aspects of architecture. We refer in a recent Business Enterprise Architecture Executive Update to how technically focused architectures were extended with application and information components (see “Quarkitecture: The ‘Standard Model’ of Architecture“). The next step beyond this was business components. As IT and business started to work closer together, driven by the enterprise’s increasing reliance on technology, the idea of architecture as a way to solve complexity made its way to the business side.
Architecture’s “Elementary Particles”
If we examine the messy architecture artifacts from the past, we are likely to find these four kinds of architecture building blocks in them:
- Business architecture
- Application architecture
- Data/information architecture
- Technology architecture
Are these the quarks we are looking for in architecture? Maybe, or maybe not. The same kind of thing happened with particle physics. We found the electrons first, and then went through a period of wild theorizing about the rest of the atom. Then we discovered the atom’s nucleus and its components: protons and neutrons. These larger particles, called hadrons, turned out to be clumps of the much smaller quarks. Similarly, in architecture, we can make a distinction among these four different aspects of architecture and get our enterprises aligned with this kind of thinking. It can bring a little order to the madness.
But we may get only a little bit of order, for we may be at the hadron stage of architecture atomic theory, and our standard model of architecture may have a ways to go. In any case, it can never be anything more than a model; models can only aspire to mimic reality.