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Open Enterprise Architectures and Frameworks

Enterprise Architectures and SolutionsWith industry trends moving swiftly toward non-proprietary solutions, enterprise environments that can support integration with third-party applications are becoming the architecture of choice. While many firms today are struggling to find their long-term value proposition in environments that are in constant change; there are significant benefits to implementing and adopting a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) that can provide long-term solutions for a business.

An open service-oriented enterprise architecture can be a valuable framework for supporting a large mix of disjointed applications and legacy systems, and will often provide a number of common services and components supporting data transformations and exchange, as well as other application operations that can be shared in an enterprise environment. The following list identifies some of the key features that are found in most enterprise frameworks:

  • Service-Oriented Design
  • XML Data Exchange
  • Data Transformations
  • Single Sign-On Capability
  • XML Messaging Manager
  • Integration and Orchestration
  • Scalable Architecture
  • Digital Signatures
  • Enterprise API Support
  • Business Rules Management
  • Web Services
  • Cloud Middleware
  • Enterprise Portals
  • Database Integration
  • Intelligent Routing
  • Multiple Transport Protocols
  • PKI Security Management
  • Secure E-Mail Management
  • Workflow Process Manager
  • Business Process Integration
  • Process Performance Monitoring
  • Adaptor Libraries

This list is not a complete set of features supported by most enterprise architectures. In fact, many solutions may have multiple feature variations, as well as specialized use architectures. In addition, any enterprise solutions will also support extensions enabling various vendors, of hardware and/or software solutions within the enterprise environment, to interact with one other. Most industries have been in the process of developing standards (e.g., NIST, EDI, HIPAA, CIDX, etc.) that define how their particular industry will support electronic communications. These standards further support the global interoperability possibilities that enterprise solutions have opened.

Cloud Middleware can complement enterprise frameworks and help to reduce the amount of complexity within an organization's IT infrastructure while obtaining the many benefits of the SOA middleware. In many instances, the focus for businesses will shift from technology, to what is in the best interest of the company, which is business processes. Today's evolving businesses constantly need to adapt to new customer bases, and success will come from adapting and making the necessary changes as soon as possible. The technologies associated with enterprise frameworks and a SOA environment can set the foundation for such success.

XML for Intercommunications between ApplicationsEnterprise solutions will leverage on XML for intercommunications among the applications in the enterprise environment. In addition to XML, multiple transport protocols (e.g., SOAP, HTTP, SMTP, FTP, etc.) are also supported to enable communications with external customers, trading partners, regulators, investors, and the like. These transport protocols can be used over a number of wide reaching communication infrastructures including; the Internet, local area networks, wide area networks, secure communication channels, dedicated leased lines, etc. The flexibility and extensibility of the underlying communication networks, provides fertile ground for expanding on the capabilities and use of enterprise solutions.

Of the many diverse features that may be integrated throughout an enterprise framework, messaging is one of the key features that most SOA solutions have in common. Messaging enables communications to take place throughout the framework, as well as external to the enterprise environment. The concept of enterprise messaging goes far beyond the simple mail messaging services (i.e., SMTP) that many associate with electronic messaging systems. Enterprise messaging will often support a number of internal enterprise processes (e.g., inter-application communications, event-driven control, queuing management, exception handling, security, etc.), which further contributes to its vital role in the enterprise architecture.

Enterprise messaging solutions are usually XML based. The descriptive nature of XML affords the enterprise the ability to integrate messaging with XML-aware applications throughout the enterprise environment, as well as exchange messages with external systems if needed. Not only are message constructs more clearly understood, they also can be readily mapped from one application schema to another. Through the use data transformation software, XML schemas, and mapping rules, inconsistent data definitions can be dynamically translated, enabling message interchange throughout the enterprise environment.

Furthermore, messaging provides a framework to support publish and subscribe operations. This capability allows for subscription services to obtain information being published by the system. Subscriptions can be established with most anyone so that all who have interest in, have been authorized and registered, can obtain the necessary business information. Proprietary interfaces are not typically required, and the performance impact due to a large subscription base, is minimal on the enterprise architecture.

Overall, the combination of evolving Internet technologies, application components, comprehensive middleware, and advanced database management has contributed to the realization of today's enterprise architecture solutions. These solutions will continue to evolve as business needs dictate, building an integrated framework upon our ever-expanding information foundations.

In summary, the fast-approaching technology wave requires a sound enterprise infrastructure to support the level of information interchange that will drive businesses. One solution does not fit all! Business sectors and specific processes need to be analyzed and understood as they work today, before instituting a solution that may or may not support the business needs for tomorrow. Enterprise solutions can provide a comprehensive framework for resolving shortfalls. However, there is more involved to successful enterprise solutions than just building the framework. You also need a good understanding of how best to implement it within a given environment, and how to plug applications in without sacrificing security, scalability, or availability. Additionally, one should evaluate the associated long-term costs involved with any solution, and assume the business risks involved. Through careful planning and design, risks can be mitigated, but never eliminated.