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Artikelen
Nov 2014
Een impressie van het LAC 2014
Jul 2014
UX/UI has no business rules
Jun 2014
Technical debt: a time related issue
Solution shaping workshops: this is where the magic happens
Mei 2014
Architecture life cycle
Project managers and architects
Sep 2013
Using ArchiMate for describing infrastructures
Jul 2013
Kruchten’s 4+1 views for solution architecture
Jun 2013
The SEI stack of solution architecture frameworks
TOGAF and infrastructure architecture
Mei 2013
The Zachman framework
An introduction to architecture frameworks
Apr 2013
How to handle a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack
Architecture Principles
Mrt 2013
Views and viewpoints explained
Stakeholders and their concerns
Skills of a solution architect architect
Feb 2013
Solution architects versus enterprise architects
Definition of IT Architecture
Dec 2012
Infrastructure Architecture - Infrastructure Building Blocks and Concepts
What is Big Data?
How to make your IT "Greener"
What is Cloud computing and IaaS?
Purchasing of IT infrastructure technologies and services
IDS/IPS systems
IP Protocol (IPv4) classes and subnets
Infrastructure Architecture - Course materials
Nov 2012
Introduction to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
IT Infrastructure Architecture model
Okt 2011
Fire prevention in the datacenter
Sep 2011
IT Infrastructuurmodel gepubliceerd in XR Magazine
Where to build your datacenter
Jul 2011
Availability - Fall-back, hot site, warm site
Reliabilty of infrastructure components
Jun 2011
Human factors in availability of systems
Business Continuity Management (BCM) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
Mei 2011
Performance - Design for use
Performance concepts - Load balancing
Performance concepts - Scaling
Apr 2011
Performance concept - Caching
Perceived performance
Mrt 2011
Ethical hacking
Feb 2011
Computer crime
Introduction to Cryptography
Jan 2011
Introduction to Risk management
The history of UNIX and Linux
Dec 2010
The history of Microsoft Windows
Engelse woorden in het Nederlands
The history of Novell NetWare
Nov 2010
The history of operating systems - MS-DOS
Infosecurity beurs 2010
Okt 2010
Wat is infrastructuur?
The history of Storage
The history of Networking
Sep 2010
History of servers
Jul 2010
Guru4Pro - Cloud computing
Jun 2010
Cloud: waar staat mijn data?
Mei 2010
Tips voor het behalen van uw ITAC certificaat
Apr 2010
Ervaringen met het bestuderen van TOGAF
De beveiliging van uw data in de cloud
Mrt 2010
Proof of concept
Een consistente back-up? Nergens voor nodig.
Feb 2010
Measuring Enterprise Architecture Maturity
Jan 2010
The Long Tail
Dec 2009
Master Certified IT Architect
ITAC Certification
Sep 2009
Human factors in security
Google outage
Apr 2009
SAS 70
Feb 2009
De Mythe van de Man-Maand
Jan 2009
TOGAF 9 - wat is veranderd?
DYA: Ontwikkelen Zonder architectuur
Nov 2008
Landelijk Architectuur Congres LAC 2008
InfoSecurity beurs 2008
Okt 2008
Spam is big business
Sep 2008
Waarom IT projecten mislukken
Stroom en koeling
Aug 2008
Laat beheerders meedraaien in projecten
De zeven eigenschappen van effectief leiderschap
Jul 2008
Archimate
Jun 2008
Een ontmoeting met John Zachman
ITAC - IT Architect certification
Mei 2008
Persoonlijk Informatie Eigendom
The Irresistible Forces Meet the Movable Objects
Apr 2008
Webcast
Live computable webcast
Lezing Trends in IT Security
Hardeningscontrole en hacktesting
Mrt 2008
Kennismanagement
Information Lifecycle Management - Wat is ILM
Jan 2008
LEAP: de trip naar Redmond
LEAP: De laatste Nederlandse masterclasses
Nov 2007
Scada systemen
LEAP - Halverwege de Nederlandse masterclasses
Okt 2007
Beveiliging van data - Het kasteel en de tank
Sep 2007
Waarom je geen ICT architect moet worden
Non-functional requirements
Aug 2007
Redenen om te backuppen
Log analyse - gebruik logging informatie
Jul 2007
LEAP - Microsoft Lead Enterprise Architect Program
Jun 2007
Patterns in IT architectuur
Mei 2007
Tot de dood ons scheidt
Apr 2007
High Availability clusters
Feb 2007
Hoe geef ik een goede presentatie
Lagen in ICT Beveiliging
Jan 2007
Zachman architectuur model
Dec 2006
High performance clusters en grids
Redenen om te kiezen voor Open Source software
Monitoring door systeembeheerders
Nov 2006
Wat is VMS?
IT Architectuur certificeringen
Okt 2006
Storage Area Network's (SAN's)
Systeembeheer documentatie
Wat zijn Rootkits
Sep 2006
Virtualisatie van operating systems
Kenmerken van Open Source software
Linux certificering: RHCE en LPI
99,999% beschikbaarheid
Aug 2006
Het infrastructuur model


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Een impressie van het LAC 2014

Vrijdag 28 November 2014


Op 26 en 27 november werd in Nieuwegein weer het Landelijk Architectuur Congres (LAC) gehouden. Het LAC is hét jaarlijkse evenement voor de IT architect in Nederland. Het was al enkele jaren geleden dan ik er voor het laatst ben geweest – meestal het gevolg van drukke inzet bij de klant. Het was daarom goed om zien wat er sinds de laatste keer dat ik er was is veranderd.

Het eerste wat mij opviel was dat bij de sponsors van het evenement de grote organisaties ontbraken. De huidige sponsoren zijn vooral kleinere architectenbureaus in plaats van de grote system integrators. Verder viel me op dat er relatief veel sessies waren die gingen over communicatie en andere soft skills in plaat van over “harde” techniek.

De eerste dag werd energiek gestart met een keynote presentatie van Rick van de Lans, die inging op de manier waarop we met data (al dan niet big data) omgaan. Hij benadrukte dat veel Business Intelligence en Datawarehouse technieken zich vooral richten op interne data en niet op beschikbare externe data. Ook wordt data nog niet gezien als een primair product maar vooral als een bijproduct van de bestaande processen. Verder gaf hij aan dat we in Europa aan het achterlopen zijn op dit gebied – grote spelers richten zich vooral op Amerika en op Azië, en laten Europa links liggen, vooral omdat de acceptatie van nieuwe technieken er zo langzaam gaat.

De tweede keynote was van Bert Hooyman van Philips. Hij vertelde over een groot transformatieprogramma binnen Philips. Ik moet zeggen dat me weinig is bijgebleven van deze presentatie. Het valt dan ook niet mee om na een “kanon” als Rick van der Lans te moeten presenteren.

Hierna was er keuze uit maar liefst 6 parallelle tracks en een interactieve sessie. Elke track bestond uit 4 presentaties. Ik koos voor de track over de waardebepaling van architectuur. Helaas mis je daardoor natuurlijk een groot aantal – waarschijnlijk ook zeer interessante – presentaties, maar gelukkig zijn deze na afloop van het LAC allemaal op de site van het LAC na te kijken.

De track die ik koos werd deels gepresenteerd door studenten die onderzoeken op het gebied van waardebepaling van architectuur hadden uitgevoerd. Iemand die ik eruit wil lichten is Wendy Günther, die een aansprekende en humorvolle presentatie wist te geven. Heel goed!

In de pauzes tussen de presentaties was er ruim de tijd om bij te praten met vakgenoten en om oude contacten aan te halen. Altijd leuk en leerzaam.

De eerste dag werd afgesloten met een keynote van Lineke Sneller, hoogleraar Toegevoegde Waarde van IT van de Nyenrode universiteit. Zij was ook lid van de klankbordgroep van de commissie Elias, over de problemen bij IT projecten bij de overheid. De presentatie ging vooral over hoe architecten zich beter konden presenteren in de boardroom. De belangrijkste tip was om vooral de architectuurplaten thuis te laten, evenals de technische termen, en je te richten op de taal die in de boardroom wordt gesproken – de taal van de euro’s. Als de architect de essentie van een probleem of een oplossing in euro’s weet te vertalen is de kans veel groter dat hij aansluiting vindt en begrepen wordt.

De tweede dag werd gestart met een keynote van Philippe Kruchten (een van de grondleggers van RUP en de bedenker van het 4+1 architectuurmodel). Hij vertelde – na wat overbodige slides over wat een architect nu precies is en doet (zucht) – vooral over de wet van Conway, die stelt dat de organisatie van een softwareontwikkelafdeling weerspiegeld wordt in de uiteindelijke architectuur van de software die wordt ontwikkeld. En omdat de architectuur vaak onafhankelijk van de ontwikkelaars wordt opgesteld, kan er frictie ontstaan. Een frictie die lijkt op technical debt. Ook ging hij in op de mismatch die vaak ontstaat tussen ontwikkelaars en de beheergroep, of de infrastructuur waarop software moet gaan draaien. Dit is een erkend issue en de oplossing hierbij is DevOps – een werkwijze waar de architecten nog aan moeten wennen. Professor Kuchten stelde dan ook dat je altijd rekening moet houden en afstemming moet zoeken met drie “tures”: Architecture, Organisation Structure en Infrastructure.

Na de keynote werd de traditionele NAF penning en architectuurprijs uitgereikt, waarna er weer tijd was voor parallelle tracks. Ik koos voor de track “Boardroom skills voor architecten” – een track die bijzonder populair bleek. Een presentatie die ik zeker wil vermelden was die van Kees-Jan Koster, die – om aan architecten duidelijk te maken hoe communicatie werkt – de presentatie verduidelijkte met een taal die architecten wel begrijpen: UML diagrammen.

De dag werd afgesloten met een keynote van Stefan Willems van Sandvik uit Zweden, die met een zeer goed verhaal met veel humor liet zien dat het vertellen van een goed verhaal over een toekomstige architectuur veel meer waarde heeft dat welke architectuurplaat dan ook. Ook liet hij zien hoe je met een geanimeerd whiteboard filmpje grote groepen mensen in je organisatie kunt bereiken.

Het was goed om weer eens op het LAC te zijn – wat mij betreft volgend jaar weer.


UX/UI has no business rules

Vrijdag 18 Juli 2014


I am involved in a project that designs a browser based application. The customer has very specific ideas about the way the UI/UX aspects. As Forrester states: “Ultimately any service must meet the customer’s needs, be easy to use and enjoyable – the three facets of customer experience.”

UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) are related concepts. In practice the difference is fuzzy, to say the least. In theory, UI is about the buttons, drop-down lists, colors, and other elements on a user interface, while UX is about the whole user experience (like how easy can one switch between tasks, or how responsive a user interface is to user actions). UX is mostly about the joy of using a user interface.

I found that it can be hard to define the demarcation point between the UI/UX part and the rest of the application. In older applications, there was no real border between both. But splitting the UI/UX layer from the rest of the application components is very beneficial.  

The main rule is that the UI/UX layer should not have any business logic; all business logic must be implemented in the underlying application. This allows using multiple user interfaces with the same application. For instance, a modern browser, but also older browser versions, mobile apps on tablets of phones, an interface for disabled people, or whatever comes next.

The user interface should only help users to get a better experience. In theory, a text-based interface (green screen) should suffice to operate the application via its API services. The UI/UX layer is just helpful for humans, but does not improve or extend the business functions of the application.

For instance, the user interface could have a drop-down list to select a value. In theory, such a value could also be entered manually with the same functionality (but it could lead to errors when a value is mistyped). Therefore, drop-down lists are part of the UI/UX layer. When the user interface is ported to a mobile app, this app could use another interface to select a value. In all cases, the application and its API service is unchanged. This means that UI/UX is all about non-functional requirements, not about application or business functionalities.

In general, the release cycle of user interfaces like mobile apps is much faster than that of functional management, or software development. Where software development to create new functions typically takes months to get into production, and changes on the functional management layer could take weeks, changes on the UI/UX layer could be done in days. This allows for frequent updates of the user interface and a constant increase of the user experience.

But to allow a new version of a user interface to work seamlessly with the underlying application, it is essential for the app to have no business logic. Instead it should use the API services of the underlying application(s) on the server. This allows for instance for changing one user interface to benefit from the latest browser enhancements, while still providing an unaltered user interface to users of older browsers, without changing anything on the appliation or its API services.

The question is how to handle functionalities like spell checkers or auto-fill fields like Google uses. Strictly speaking, these functionalities are only helping the user to get a better experience. For instance, most applications would still work when words are mistyped in a text editor. The spell checker is only helping the user and enhancing the user experience. Therefore, a spell checker is part of the UI/UX. But to have a functional spell checker, system calls are needed (it makes little sense to load a full dictionary in the user interface of a web browser; the typed words are typically checked against a dictionary on a server using a API service). Therefore, a API service is needed, which is a service-side application component. As this type of UI/UX functionality is typically used in a number of applications, in most cases one generic service is used by the UI/UX layers of multiple applications. But architecturally, it is still a UI/UX component, as it has no business function.


Technical debt: a time related issue

Zaterdag 28 Juni 2014


According to Wikipedia, Technical Debt refers to the eventual consequences of poor software architecture and software development within a codebase. The debt can be thought of as work that needs to be done before a particular job can be considered complete. If the debt is not repaid, then it will keep on accumulating interest, making it hard to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy.

So, technical debt is creating a solution that is not complying to the architecture or detailed design. The reason for this is most of the time lack of time. In some circumstances, shortcuts are needed in order to deliver a project on time. This is not necessarily bad – there can be good economic, commercial or political reasons for this. Such a shortcut is known as technical debt. Technical debt can be compared to Development without architecture, as described in the DYA architecture method. I posted an article about this some time ago. Technical debt must be “paid back”; the chosen shortcut solution must be temporarily by definition and the definitive solution – according to the architecture – must be built eventually. This means that besides the extra effort to run the solution in the suboptimal way, money must be reserved to build the definitive solution. Preferably, building the definitive solution should be started immediately – in parallel with building the technical debt. I think technical debt can very well be extended to include infrastructure technical debt, or solution architecture technical debt for that matter. Just like technical debt can occur in software, it can be interoduced in infrastructures as well. Such technical debt can be introduced by creating an infrastructure solution that is deviating from the defined infrastructure architecture. This deviation can lead to additional cost, for instance in terms of increased systems management effort, replacing hardware before the economic life span is reached, or temporarily using additional software licenses. Nobody likes technical debt. It is a temporary solution to a problem that needs to be solved anyway. The only real reason for creating technical debt is time constraints. If enough time is available, it is always best to create the definitive solution right away. But because of time constraints, extra money is spent creating a temporarily solution quickly, and redo it later. It must be understood by the stakeholders that by creating technical debt, they are actually paying extra for their impatience.

Solution shaping workshops: this is where the magic happens

Zaterdag 07 Juni 2014


2014-05/solution-shaping-workshops.jpg

When architecting a new IT system, at some point fundamental decisions need to be made. For instance about the structure of the system and its components, about the usage of some commercial product, or about the integration of components. These decisions are architectural, as they are fundamental – they cannot be changed easily afterwards.

In a typical project, architects, designers and other stakeholders all have their own view on the system that is to be built. They create their own views and sketches, have their own mental map, talk to each other (but not to everyone, let alone the lead architect) and make up their mind on how things should be solved. However, not everyone has the same knowledge level on all relevant topics and few – if any – are able to oversee the consequences of their proposed solutions.

Various architectural methods define some point “where the magic happens”. Some methods are quite vague about it (come up with the best fitting solution), and other try to highly organize it, such that is becomes unpractical (create extensive lists with alternatives, use a repository of architecture building blocks, etc.).

But in practice, the magic happens in a discussion by a small group of architects. Brainstorms are held, solutions are found, and the most fundamental views are created. I call it the Solution Shaping Workshop.

Now, don’t confuse a Solution Shaping Workshop with a traditional workshop, as in for instance the MetaPlan Method or a Brown Paper session. A Solution Shaping Workshop can be planned, but can also happen spontaneous – for instance as a result of an informal discussion between architects at the coffee machine.

A Solution Shaping Workshop has the following characteristics:

  • No workshop mediator, no system
  • Small group of people (2 to 4 members)
  • Availability of whiteboards or flip-overs to make drawings
  • Relaxed environment
  • Focus on one problem
  • Everyone is free to brainstorm, ideas are welcome
  • One hour max

In a Solution Shaping Workshop one architectural concern is addressed (for instance: “How does our system interface with the current system?”). In the workshop one member of the team explains the problem and provides his first line of thinking. Then a free-format brainstorm is done, where all members are expected to provide input. In practice, quick sketches are made on whiteboards or flip-over pages that help the creative process. When everyone agrees about the outcome of the creative process – the drawn picture – the workshop ends. When no solution can be agreed upon in one hour, the Solution Shaping Workshop should end; apparently the team is not ready to make a decision on the subject yet. In such a case, actions should be agreed for a follow-up (for instance, it could be agreed to get more information from other stakeholders, or to put the issue on the architectural concerns list).

Be sure to make pictures of the whiteboards (using your phone) before the meeting ends, or to take the flip-over sheets with you. One person (typically the one that started the Solution Shaping Workshop) transforms the drawings to a proposal for an architectural decision. Such an architectural decision typically states:

  • The definition of the architectural concern that is addressed (what problem are we solving)
  • The proposed solution as agreed upon in the Solution Shaping Workshop (including drawings and clarifying text)
  • The pros and cons of the proposed solution
  • The alternatives that were discussed and the reason they are not chosen
  • The impact and implications of the decision

This architectural decision (typically a few pages in length) is then sent to the members of the Solution Shaping Workshop to be peer-reviewed. After this review, the decision typically needs to be approved by some project board or design authority.

When the solution is approved, it is very important to share the solution with all relevant stakeholders, to avoid new discussions about possible solutions at a later stage. Preferably, this is done by presenting the solution to the group. In such setup, it is most helpful to not shown the created drawings on a projector, but to sketch then again on a whiteboard. This way people can understand how the solution is built up, step by step. While sketching the solution, the group builds up a mental map of the solution. Questions can be answered as soon as they arise, during the buildup of the sketch.

Was the picture shown to them in full, they could get confused, overwhelmed by detail, or question some detail instead of grasping the total solution first.

Be prepared to answer questions from the stakeholders, as they might have their own view on the subject (and sometimes even a worked-out solution in some form). Try to avoid discussions about new alternatives. By getting approval before presenting the discussion to a larger group, the decision is not under discussion, but a fact.


Architecture life cycle

Zondag 25 Mei 2014


Working under architecture means that solutions are designed, implemented and deployed according to an underlying architecture.

During the design of a system, architects make architectural decisions. Architectural decisions are those design decisions that are the hardest to change later on and have large impact on the project as a whole. Which decisions are exactly architecturally relevant is not easy to define and is highly dependent on the type of system designed. Design decisions that do not influence the architecture of the system are not considered architecturally relevant and can be made by the designers and developers of the system.

During projects the architect must govern that the architectural decisions are respected and not violated by the designers, developers, implementers, testers, or other stakeholders.

After the project is delivered the architecture must be guarded during the full life cycle of the delivered system to ensure the architecture is not compromised when changes are performed to the system. For instance a perfectly architected high available solution could undergo a change in some network equipment after a few years of operation that eliminates the high availability of the system by introducing a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF). The system managers performing the change might not be aware of the introduction of the SPOF, but the architect guarding all changes to the system should be aware of architecture threatening changes. It is therefore of great value to have the architecture governed during the full life cycle of a system; from creation of the first design elements to the day the system is decommissioned.



Over Sjaak Laan

Sjaak Laan

Sjaak Laan (1964) werkt als Principal IT Architect bij CGI en heeft meer dan 25 jaar IT-ervaring.

Email: sjaak.laan@gmail.com

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Deze site bevat mijn eigen mening, en niet noodzakelijkerwijs die van mijn werkgever of van de klanten waar ik voor werk.

The postings on this site are my opinions and do not necessarily represent CGI’s strategies, views or opinions.

 

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