Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Architecture bridges are like braided ropes

Architecture bridges  are like braided ropes consisting of three (3) intertwined strands that correspond to:

  1. modeling

  2. documentation

  3. communication


Modeling reflects the essence of architecture. Models are abstractions used to leverage, aid, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience among different groups of people.

Many books have been written and courses presented that describe ways of designing models.

UML, the Unified Modeling Language, represents the most common set of models for specifying application structure, behavior, architecture, business process, and data structure. Many modeling tools support UML, including: IBM's Rational, Microsoft's Visio, Telelogic's System Architect, as well as numerous other products.

The goal is to extend UML into OMG's Model-Driven Architecture (MDA) that unifies every step of development and integration from business modeling, through architectural and application modeling, to development, deployment, maintenance, and evolution. In addition, service oriented is driving demand for its own new breed of modeling products.

Patterns represent ways of modeling best practices so that they can be effectively imitated by others. Modeling is also required to achieve re-use and establish standards.


Documentation is about capturing facts and properties -- and then organizing that information based on models.

Models are like a skeleton

Everything except the bones are Documentation

The world famous Harvard Business School professors Richard Nolan and Warren MacFarlane suggest that intangible assets are worth approximately ten times (10 x ) the value of physical assets.

Various Asset Management products can track physical assets. Many include spiders that can automatically crawl across a network's resources in order to discover and inventory what already exists.

Capturing, collecting, and organizing the intangibles -- worth more than ten times (10 x ) the tangibles -- involves tracking:
  • product know-how and technical knowledge
  • employee training and experience
  • best practices
  • re-use


Communication is the oft neglected third thread of the architectural rope. Frequently, the only people who access or read architecture information are the authors themselves.

Communication means helping occasional visitors intuitively navigate, explore, and find information. Capturing, collecting, and organizing -- the Documentation step -- is where information gets fed in. This step, Communication, is where information gets accessed by casual untrained users reading and learning about tangible as well as intangible assets.

UML requires training. UML is complex. UML can be highly detailed. A simpler level of abstraction is needed that's easier to understand by someone without any formal training.

Communication and collaboration are converging with computing. Context is critical for converying content. My company, Flashmap Systems, competes in this market niche -- providing products like ITatlas and ITguide that help architects communicate with their users. Information about architecture needs to be shared and understood by widely diverse audiences.

In addition, Flashmap Systems has contributed to effective communication through ITscout's highly visual, 3-layer/4-model technololgy portfolio framework:
Technology Architecture
  • infrastructure -- foundation
    • clientware
    • middleware
    • serverware
    • manageware
    • platforms
  • applications -- layered on top of infrastructure
    • built -- developed
      • platforms
      • languages
      • reusables
      • lifecycle
    • bought -- purchased
      • value chains
      • back-office to front-office
      • industry-specific verticals
  • business intelligence -- layered on top of applications
    • data
    • tools
    • analytics


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