Does cloud computing make enterprise architecture irrelevant?

That’s the title of a new discussion document out of Deloitte, which pits several of the firm’s practice leaders in a point-counterpoint discussion.

The debate opens up with this question:

“With less reliance on massive, monolithic enterprise solutions, it’s tempting to think that the hard work of creating a sustainable enterprise architecture (EA) is also behind us. So, as many companies make the move to cloud computing, they anticipate leaving behind a lot of the headaches of EA. But is that how things will really play out in the real world?”

The consensus is that organizations are going to need EA more than ever, cloud or no cloud. Technology — regardless of where it’s delivered from — is getting more complex, and business requirements are growing more intense.

“The business never really cared what it was running on anyway – it just cares about results. That means IT isn’t off the hook at all when it comes to EA,” says Scott Rosenberger. “If anything, this complicates things.” He points out that moving to cloud “doesn’t change the underlying reality that there has to be a strategy for putting together all the people, processes and tools that the cloud supports in order to maintain security and reliability.”

Dan Spar says cloud is about the technology; EA is about the business. And the business challenges are always there. Take, for example, “an organization that spends billions of dollars on information technology annually, sponsoring more new technology development projects than all the VCs in Silicon Valley combined” — the Department of Defense (DoD). DoD, Spare points out, “has reached an important conclusion…. the most important factor in the successful use of technology is the ability to clearly understand, analyze and stabilize business requirements and transition plans from the start. In other words, it’s all about EA.”

Omar Trujillo Segura seals the argument, pointing out that one client was wondering whether cloud would have taken away some of the headaches with the recent implementation of a $200 million ERP system — especially all the time spent on design, implementation, configuration and rollout. Segura’s take: “No matter what tool you use, the core problem isn’t the technology. It’s in defining the relationships between all the different components of their vision, from business processes to technology. And that’s where EA comes in.”

In the service oriented architecture space, practitioners, vendors, analysts and consultants spent years hashing out what SOA should and shouldn’t be, and the  always boiled down to one foundational fact: it’s about the business, not the technology.  The same reasoning should be extended to cloud.

So does cloud computing make EA irrelevant?  No way, no how. Cloud just makes technology resources more accessible and potentially more affordable.

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