Defining and Enforcing Architecture in .NET

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Defining and Enforcing Architecture
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As difficult as successfully creating a visionary set of planning documents for an organization s information technology and systems architecture might be, it may turn out to be the easy part of the systems architecture process. The first two sets of documents outline the existing condition and the desired (target) architecture. Much detailed documentation is necessary to bridge the gap between the current condition and the desired or target state. Compare this point in the process to building a magnificent house. The architects and engineers have seen the land and interviewed the homeowners, taking abundant notes to find out what they want in their new home and how they plan to use it. Now it is time for the architect to create the shape of the living space, begin writing specifications, make materials choices, and do preliminary product selections. If only the discipline and practice of information systems architecture were that easy! Regrettably, IT architecture is nearly always a more complicated set of details than that necessary for the construction of even very large building projects. The difference between the two is, of course, their dimension. A building is physical and can easily be seen and touched. An IT architecture is abstract.
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Just as there is a hierarchy of progression that must be observed in building the text-based documentation, there is also a natural order to creating diagrams that further describe and define the architecture. Like piling stone on foundation stone finishes the groundwork before the floor joists can be set for buildings, documents and diagrams are intended to fully substantiate every detail of the entire enterprise s IT systems from end to end. Developing and documenting the information systems architecture plan should for the most part follow an order that transitions from the very general to the specific and detailed. This chapter presents both the text documentation and the system diagrams in an order of increasing detail. Some deviation to create the minute details first might be OK or even desirable under certain circumstances, but skipping part of the documentation altogether would be like building a house with no roof to keep the rain out or with no doors to enter and exit. Creating the architecture documentation is difficult but necessary work to build IT systems to quality standards and provide a basis for the management and operation of them over time. Changes, upgrades, and new applications all become easier when you are working from satisfactory documentation. More important, the documentation serves to enforce a level of discipline on everyone working any facet of IT operations. Implementing and maintaining adequate system security protection profiles and access controls is arduous at best and impossible at worst without sufficient documentation. To reach auditable compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and other regulatory requirements, every documented node-to-node interface point where you can demonstrate that adequate access and security controls are applied increases the probability of a positive audit report. Knowing that every opportunity to enhance security has been taken brings its own reward in satisfaction for the design team.
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Examining Documentation for IT Architecture
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The mantra of every IT manager is document, document, document, yet the reality is that IT projects, operations management, and system change management are frequently under time pressures and adequate documentation is rarely done. Insufficient documentation costs organizations considerably in many ways it may even be the biggest cost factor, although it is hard to capture its exact value. When an IT staff member has to respond to a request for information about a potential changes with We will have to take a look at that, it s a clue that adequate documentation is lacking, to be made up for with research that would have been unnecessary with good documentation. The documentation discussed in this chapter is the minimum needed to document
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