BPM & Enterprise Architecture
Architecting Collaborative Applications (Part II of II)
By Paul Liesenberg, Enterprise Architecture and Technology Manager, Cisco Systems
To read Part I of this article, click here.
Planning a collaborative architecture
The figure below illustrates the business process and the ways that collaboration
technology can accelerate it. The top layer depicts the business architecture,
which connects people who access, use and transform information in accordance
with a process that is aimed at achieving a business result. Collaboration is
of paramount importance when it comes to optimizing the business process.
Figure 3: Collaborative Architecture (click here
to enlarge image)
The three lower layers represent the technology architecture. This is where
EAs model the business process and break it down into self-contained steps that
ideally map to modular, reusable services. Within the enterprise applications
layer, the composite applications illustrated here draw services from traditional
applications, as well as using communications and collaboration services and
network-based services to present the optimal tool to users.
Network-based services are vitally important when enabling a collaboration
architecture that can mash up enterprise applications and collaborative elements
with business-critical determinism. Resource allocation and policy are vital
to support emerging collaboration models.
It is important to understand that while reusable network services can greatly
enrich composite applications, they cannot compromise network availability or
manageability. Rather, they can and should result in an overall network infrastructure
that is easier to manage and able to fix itself whenever possible. Many of these
services are easier to scale, manage and reuse when they reside in the network.
All of these functions merge into a homogenous intelligent network cloud that
ensures functionality transparently end to end.
Not only are these composite applications helping to bring down the walls between
collaboration, application and data silos, but they also are beginning to blur
the boundaries between the traditional organizational silos in IT. EAs, application
developers and networking professionals must work together to best support the
business process and innovate with collaboration.
The network as a platform for composite applications
Integrated network services accelerate and secure the composite application
infrastructure, providing vital performance and security enhancements and overcoming
concerns in those areas. In addition, the network helps enable communication
and collaboration services that greatly enrich the emerging composite application
world. By enriching these applications with powerful network services that support
more effective collaboration, enterprises can realize significant and measurable
Because of the nature of composite applications, there is a 100 percent correlation
between network availability and application availability. The different Web
service components communicate with each other across the network, and any break
in communication means that the orchestrated application cannot run. In addition,
depending on the design of the composite application, there can be varying degrees
of correlation between network latency and overall application performance.
Network latency adds to the "time-to-complete" of each component and
can decisively contribute to the time-to-complete of the entire composite application.
XML is emerging as the lingua franca for composite applications. Thus, network-based
XML-aware acceleration, virtualization and security services ensure that any
application gets the type of QoS and security that benefit it.
Because XML messages are encoded in human language, they are long and verbose,
making them a prime candidate for compression. Compression reduces latency,
especially over wide-area links, and greatly enhances application performance
for remote users or branches.
Increased strain on processing resources is another concern. Some experts have
opined that SOA places too much strain on the existing IT infrastructure. Arguably,
protocol overhead like repetitive parsing, validation and transformation functions
consume CPU horsepower that ideally should be dedicated to running the business
application itself. As the Web services infrastructure grows, so too does the
CPU penalty and the impact on application performance. Offloading these overhead
functions to the network greatly helps application performance.
Finally, by definition, composite applications are open and distributed. This
openness allows for unprecedented flexibility, but such a distributed application
infrastructure also provides new vulnerabilities and more points of attack.
Surrounding the monolithic enterprise application block with security walls
will simply no longer work in an environment that, by definition, thrives on
openness. Web services are under increasing scrutiny from a security standpoint,
and this remains an area of great concern to EAs and CIOs as they set out to
implement SOA. Network-based security services provide relief.
Collaboration is a powerful tool as businesses examine ways they can thrive
in uncertain times, allowing employees to become more productive as they embrace
new ways of working and leverage real-time access to information. An effective
collaboration strategy is a requirement as the boundaries of the enterprise
grow porous and encompass remote workers, partners and customers.
Enterprise architects are challenged to improve business processes and increasingly
look to SOA and Web 2.0 mashups to help achieve this goal. Network-based services
play a key role in accomplishing the overarching objective of aligning business
and technology architectures and helping deliver new application models. In
particular, SOA and mashups can create this new generation of end-to-end collaborative
applications with rich user-interaction experiences, robust performance and
About the Author
Paul Liesenberg is an Enterprise Architecture and Technology Manager for Cisco where he develops methodologies that optimally align next-generation infrastructures and overarching business processes. Prior to Cisco, Liesenberg was VP of Strategic Marketing for ZettaCom and Bivio Networks, orchestrating product and partnership strategies. Earlier, he was with Cisco through the acquisition of StrataCom, and was previously with Nortel's Data Networks Division and Siemens' Public Networks' R&D division. Liesenberg holds two patents in the area of VoIP, and an M.Sc. from TUM (Technische Universitaet Muenchen).More by Paul Liesenberg