Monday, October 29, 2007

Architecture is YOUR responsibility

I read this post on Steve Vinoski's blog that quoted Ron Schmelzer of ZapThink, who makes an excellent point. "Architecture is YOUR responsibility". Well guess what, as much as vendors would like to say it is not, the reality is that you need to make the critical decisions about the architecture. Instead of some vendor, you need to be in charge of the direction and overall vision in terms of the architecture. Instead of choosing a vendor/product and building your strategy/architecture around it, you need to think through your strategy/architecture and choose the right vendor/product that can help you achieve your vision. If anybody was lucky enough to attend a talk given by Dan Pritchett (eBay), you would have realized that companies who understood this reality and took responsibility for the architectural decisions eventually made it big.

Dan's comments on architecture was very insightful (I want to write a separate post on what I learned from his talk at the recently concluded Colorado Software Summit). The underlying truth of everything he said, was that they understood and took responsibility for the architectural decisions they made, instead of relying on some vendor to provide direction and overall vision.

There is no vendor out there, that can provide you with some ESB that can magically transform your enterprise into a SOA platform or some messaging middleware that can help you scale your enterprise to whatever limits you want unless you know what you are doing and take ownership of the overall vision. You need to understand the overall architecture, make decisions and take responsibility for them. An ESB or a messaging middleware are merely a bunch of tools that help you get there or in other words they are just a means to an end not the end itself.

There is no framework out there that can force architectural decisions on your solutions that you are not willing to make yourself. During my REST in peace talk, there was a surprising number of folks who asked me about a framework that can help them develop RESFTful services. Guess what, the road to a RESTful approach (or for that matter any architectural style) starts with the architectural decisions you make (the way you think/design your services) and not with some framework where you have to flip a switch or use a bunch of annotations that turns your code into a RESTful service. That is precisely why the contract first approach is recommended over a code first approach when you do web services. You need to think about how you design your service first and then use some framework to generate your WSDL and your code from that, not the other way around.

We all remember how the EJB mania deceived us. Many companies paid millions of dollars to App Server vendors to solve their architectural problems. The whole notion of "you only need to think/write the business logic, and we will take care of the remoting, transactions, persistence, scalability ..etc" was just an illusion. Neither did it preclude people from making extremely stupid architectural decisions nor did it provide anymore scalability than the simple tomcat web server for most of the use cases.

You need to think carefully about the architectural decisions you make and understand the impact it has on the overall goals/vision of your enterprise. You need to be aware of operational, load, managerial and geographical scalability from day one. You cannot offset your lack of architectural vision by using some framework, product or vendor. It will only make your vendor happy, but not your customers.

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