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IT architecture in the cloud age: An evolution

Deloitte on Cloud Blog

In the past, architects were burdened with all-consuming tasks but lacked the power to enact meaningful change. What’s different with cloud?

March 15, 2019

A blog post by David Linthicum, managing director, chief cloud strategy officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP

The role of the IT architect has been evolving for the last 30 years. In that time there have been misstarts and missed opportunities.

In the past, architects were burdened with all-consuming tasks but lacked the power to enact meaningful change. The term “governance” has been tossed around as the responsibility of architects–they created rules and policies for how IT was to be done. This meant that they were responsible for enforcing the rules, particularly in the 80s and 90s. They attended meetings and acted as a pest, but without the power to tackle big issues.

At the end of the day most architects had little effect. Indeed, all you have to do is to look at the mess that is most architectures to see evidence. IT groups have been “managing by magazine,” chasing the shiny objects over the years. It has led to some big messes that are a hodgepodge of technologies that are hard to change and even harder to operate as a collective whole.

So, what’s different with cloud? Not much, unfortunately. The risk that the latest technology will be used incorrectly… misconfigured… leveraged for the wrong reasons… is still there. Indeed, it’s still a common problem. From what I have observed, there are men and woman out there that are good at arranging the cloud resources so they are near 80 to 95 percent optimized, but that is not the norm. Most are less than 40 percent optimized.

This means that’s even if you get something working, it’s not functioning at its best. Therefore it is still difficult to operate and change. While organizations can get something working with little effort, the ability to create the right configurations is more complex and requires good architectural talent. Talent that most don’t have today.

What’s missing? Good cloud architecture develops from a mix of legacy understanding, database understanding, network understanding, and compute platforms understanding – as well as a holistic view of how these things work and play well together. A great architect knows why, where, and how these elements are translated into a variety of cloud services.

The fact of the matter is that you can’t take a course to be a good architect. It’s a matter of experience and acceptance that things will be changing quickly. This journey never ends.

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