'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication' - Leonardo da Vinci



Is Your Architecture 'Faux-Elegant'?

A great slide show was put together by Bob Lewis (InfoWorld), titled 9 Warning Signs of Bad IT Architecture.  While the whole slideshow is filled with gems,  slide 7 jumped out at me as I have seen it happen so many times. Lewis coins the phrase "faux-elegant integration" which is to say that novel enterprise solutions are embedded into an architecture, seemingly to provide a solution to a complex problem, only to be leveraged on the simple tasks that were already being adequately addressed by the non-elegant solutions.

When I see IT architects writing voluminous whitepapers touting the extraordinary promise of a new marvel of Enterprise Architecture, the caution flags start dropping in my mind.  Innovation in architecture is a mindset that I embrace dearly, but innovation doesn't always mean reinventing the wheel. The simple wheel has been around for millennia and yet it still works today.  Sure, we added added inner-tubes and shiny rims, but the architecture is the same--wheel, rim, spokes, and a wearable tread of some sort. 

While I do throw the analogies of structural architects and IT architects around a lot, there are significant and important differences between the typical mindsets of each group. Building architects may design a completely functional, efficient, and ordinary apartment building--a building with a specific means to an end.  These are the type I tend make comparisons to when I correlate how complex things are built in the physical world as compared to the IT world.  

There are other structural architects that design with the flair of the abstract modern artist or even with the sole purpose of building something in a way that has never been done before.  I see many IT related architects that attempt to build solutions in this same way, Vis-à-vis, the Faux Elegant design.  I get some of the forces at play here.  Competition among enterprise solution providers is fierce.  Technology companies have mastered the art of getting geeks to change out their infrastructure technologies. And lets face it, technology workers, especially the rock stars, are fickle when it comes switching out core-technologies for the latest-greatest technology.  

In other scenarios  I see new architects, striving to wow their management team,  put together hodgepodge architectures that contain every catch-phrase, power-user term, and front-page headline technology they can get their hands on (budget permitting). Some of this comes from insecurity in their newly adopted profession, where there is a stigma that simple solutions are derived from simple minds.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  The simplest successful architectural design will outlive the faux-elegant solution hands-down every time (i.e. smart).

steve kurtz