Enterprise Architecture & the Edge of the Cloud


So you are a functional IT leader feeling the pressure around cloud migration. You don’t know what a VPC is but have learned about the “Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS)” and other opportunities are out there.

Which is the correct question?
“How do we get our applications into the cloud?”
“How can we strategically leverage the benefits of the cloud to increase our businesses competitive advantage?”

Seeing both of those questions at once…I think you know which one is correct. But which one of them have you heard or used more often lately?

The knee jerk reaction tends to be to try to get everything there so we can get back to our regular business while enjoying lower costs and increased responsiveness from the IT services. Due diligence proves out that this may not be the best way to think about it.

Moving to cloud-based IT infrastructure can be like dating…instead of looking for Miss or Mr. “Right”, we often focus our effort on finding Miss or Mr. “Right-Now”. Unfortunately, the reality is that the cloud does not allow us to wash our hands of all responsibilities around the IT function. However, properly leveraged, it can offer considerable business advantage.

So…where do we start to figure out how to take advantage of the cloud opportunity? One way to begin is to take a look inward at how your business currently uses IT. What are the IT supported functions or capabilities that your business performs and what common characteristics do they have?

If your business uses IT then you have some individual or individuals who take ownership of how your applications are implemented to bring value to your business. This would be the person or group that is responsible for defining or initiating how an application is delivered to provide its intended service. Many businesses take advantage of dedicating resources to performing this function. These are the “Enterprise Architects”. Enterprise Architecture (EA) can marry business goals and requirements to an understanding of the administrative and technical needs of the application technology stack. EA also facilitates creating relationships between services. They establish boundaries, enforce policies and enable reuse and interoperability.

The concept of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is used to describe strategies for the logical interoperability between different applications. When considering the actual compute layer and how it can be leveraged strategically for the business, the term Service Oriented Infrastructure (SOI) is used. With this in mind, EA looks at the IT business activities and categorizes them according to how they function from a holistic view. This perspective can help in identifying applications for migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure. As an example, the matrix below visualizes one way to categorizing IT related business activities. Activities are related by their relevance to the organizations “mission” and their level of standardization or maturity.

Capabilities and Services

Here, “Core Activities” refer to services that a business performs which are unique to their specific function or mission. These are the things that directly give them competitive advantage and differentiate them from other businesses. These activities can be mission critical in nature or play a secondary or enabling role. “Context Activities” perform functions that the business must do, but do not define or make the business unique. Context activities also may be mission critical or enabling in nature.

Using this model, the primary candidates for cloud migration would be applications whose functionality has become highly commoditized. These applications perform a vetted service and their operational management can be outsourced or offloaded to a third party with minimal impact on their function. These activities have very low risk to the core function of the business and may provide the best starting point for formalizing a cloud orchestration and migration blueprint. Once the cloud blueprint is in place, applications in the other quadrants may follow. Mission critical / core activities are migrated last to minimize potential service disruption.

The role of Enterprise Architect becomes increasingly important to businesses choosing to implement Cloud Computing. It is the Enterprise Architect who is positioned to understand which business processes will likely benefit from the elastic qualities of Cloud Computing and help drive the organizational change (people focus) required to move away from “server hugging” philosophies to being more focused on agile service delivery.

Many of the major hurdles for effective use of cloud computing are similar to those which EA is engaged with. In addition to application migration and Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), EA must consider and strategize use of other levels of virtualized services and what role they should play for an organization. Service delivery, platform management, provisioning, integration and security are several other aspects for which EA plays a vital role. The architectural disciplines of EA help prevent service anarchy which can diminish value results.


About Bob Sacca

A member of the Senior IT Leadership team for General Electric Corporate with 20 years of experience in IT management and leading Both cloud and data related initiatives. Current responsibilities include organizational migration of applications to cloud based architectures. Strategic administration of public, hybrid and internal cloud offerings for business solutions.
This entry was posted in CIO, Cloud, CTO, Information Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Enterprise Architecture & the Edge of the Cloud

  1. gcapilot says:

    Great observations and perspective. I particularly like the use of the Stephen Covey style quadrant matrix to classify the risk exposure vs. reproducibility factors.


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