Jun 012010

Is your organization going green, whatever that means? Well, that turns out to be a lot more than just server virtualization at the data center. Is the enterprise architecture (EA) team involved? Well, it should be. Let’s take a look.

To start, you might ask whether your organization has defined what it means to be green and/or sustainable, and more important, whether it has articulated why it is doing it and how it fits with other enterprise strategies or initiatives. If your enterprise is anything like most, the answer to these questions is probably “No.” This is a perfect opportunity to apply some business architecture to the problem. How about formalizing the goals and strategies in terms of a business motivation model (BMM)? Then, how about defining tactics to achieve the goals and tracing specific policies, processes, and applications to realizing the tactics, goals, and strategies?

The needs and opportunities for helping your enterprise are much broader than just BMM, however. Sustainability initiatives affect all of the typical architectural domains of business, information, application, and technology. In addition, to address sustainability, I find it important also to include two other architectural domains: operations architecture and performance architecture.

The business architecture describes the enterprise from a business perspective. It is essential to identifying the core set of strategies, value chains, processes and services, entities, and governance required to support the overall enterprise. Clearly, sustainability is a major initiative affecting strategies, value chains, processes, services, and governance.

The information architecture provides a consistent view into, and context for using, enterprise-wide information across processes and applications. It defines the master data semantics and requirements for the primary business entities and offers a managed information environment for both operational and analytical information.

The application architecture addresses what must be common across applications to meet enterprise goals, describes how to build applications, and how to use the technical architecture to achieve enterprise capabilities and consistency. The application architecture also describes the overall set of applications and how they are integrated. New applications will be required to support sustainability efforts. Specific architectural styles and the elimination of redundancy can contribute to the reduction of resources as well.

The technology architecture describes the infrastructure required to support applications, operations, and reporting requirements. It must satisfy specific requirements for distribution, scalability, reliability, device support, security, and application integration. Power utilization of the infrastructure has been the primary focus of green IT to date and will continue to be an integral part of sustainability efforts.

The operational architecture defines how the infrastructure is operated, managed, and monitored to meet the enterprise qualities of service. Operations must be sustainable and strive to minimize energy consumption, as well as contribute to the compliance and reporting of resource utilization and other sustainability efforts.

Finally, the performance architecture supports all of the domain architectures and the overall enterprise. This provides a consistent mechanism to define, collect, analyze, and report on metrics (for example, KPIs at the business level, paper utilization at the application level, and server and power utilization at the technology level).

Sustainability adds to the typical enterprise concerns, introducing many new requirements. For example, regulatory requirements impact the enterprise in multiple different ways. New incentives provide additional motivation for sustainability, but first we must factor regulation, compliance, and incentives into our business models, processes, and reporting. New semantics, information stores, reporting, and analytics will be required, as well as new applications to collect, manage, and distribute the information and reports. Not only will this affect the infrastructure in terms of servers, storage, and networks to support these applications, but the infrastructure itself is a subject of the reporting and a target of resource reduction efforts.

Reductions in resources can have far-ranging effects. Examining resource utilization will expose opportunities for optimizing outdated business processes, requiring new systems, applications, and infrastructure. Especially at the manufacturing and operations levels, there are numerous opportunities for reducing resources. Some efforts, viewed alone in isolation, may not seem interesting or economically viable, but when viewed from an overall enterprise perspective can provide opportunities to leverage efforts across several initiatives or promote new revenues. For example, one way to reduce paper utilization is to provide employee information online in an employee portal. In a study done in the early 2000s, Bank of America calculated that it saved 100 tons of paper annually simply by putting their employee phone directory online. Then, they were able to leverage the portal for other areas, such as online expense reporting.

The low-hanging fruit in “green IT” is power consumption at the data center through virtualization and other techniques. Even this has an enterprise perspective. You need to have the right kinds of servers and application architecture to take maximum advantage of virtualization. Beyond that, you can reduce application and storage demand by eliminating redundant systems and data.

In other words, requirements for sustainability, like any major business transformation, have far-reaching implications across the enterprise. To effectively introduce and implement them you should take an enterprise approach that evaluates all of the potential tactics and addresses them together at an enterprise scope across of all the architectural domains. Go forth, Jolly Green Architect.


Mike Rosen

Michael Rosen has more than 20 years technical leadership experience architecting, designing, and developing software products and applications.


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