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What Is Enterprise Architecture?

Enterprise architecture (EA) refers to studying, designing, strategizing, and implementing plans to deliver on broad business objectives using IT infrastructure and security. In this enterprise architecture definition, a business is able to design IT projects and enact policies meant to help the business reach its goals. Further, EA helps a business keep up to date with the latest developments in their respective industry, including new, disruptive technologies and methodologies on the safe and efficient use of IT tools. 

EA is also referred to as enterprise architectural planning (EAP). The plans that emerge from an enterprise architectural approach allow the business to meet current needs as well as scale according to its goals—all without sacrificing security and efficiency. Without a comprehensive EA plan, a business may end up misallocating resources or unnecessarily missing important goals or benchmarks. In some cases, failure to properly execute an EAP could result in the company falling out of compliance with important regulations and paying costly fines.

What Is the Use of Enterprise Architecture?

EA best practices often involve one of nine goals the plan seeks to accomplish.

Achieving Harmony After a Merger

When two businesses combine in a merger, it can be difficult to balance and organize how each company’s resources will be used. Further, it can be a challenge to figure out how to best ensure a smooth transition. An EA plan can ensure the most valuable resources are used to their full potential, and as little time as possible is invested in the transition.

EA plays a key role in aligning the objectives and approaches of the two companies involved in a merger. Once these are outlined, plans are made for executing critical goals. After a merger, it is particularly important to use EA because even if the two companies had similar products or services, their ways of producing them and supporting the process are invariably unique.

The security needs of the digital assets of the companies involved in the merger are likely also unique. Ways of safeguarding both can be discovered as the EA plan is fleshed out. In addition, each company’s system comes with inherent risk factors and vulnerabilities. These can also be addressed during the EA assessment and execution.

The Rationalization of Applications

Businesses often have large portfolios of applications used to achieve core objectives. But often, the applications may take more time and effort to operate and support than they are worth. In other cases, an application may have some legitimate benefit, but a new one can be used that does the same thing but better. During the enterprise architectural process, these opportunities are discovered and capitalized on.

Also, in many businesses, there may be several applications performing well side by side—each with its own updates, hardware requirements, and occasional troubleshooting issues. While implementing an enterprise architecture plan, a single application that can handle the workload of two or more current ones may be discovered, thus revealing a more efficient way of accomplishing the same goals.

Integration Architecture

Integration architecture focuses on using IT components in conjunction with one another. This may involve the combination of hardware components—getting the best use out of what the business has on hand as opposed to investing time and funds into sourcing new equipment.

Integration architecture also involves getting rid of inefficient silos by combining software tools. This may necessitate the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) or cloud-based tools that enable a company to interweave resources.

Integration architecture also helps an organization control its IT resources in a less wasteful manner. By ensuring it is getting the most out of the resources in its portfolio—putting each one to work to accomplish specific goals—the organization can rest assured knowing that current investments are not going to waste.

Management of Technology Risk

As businesses get more and more digitized, the risk involved with enhancing the use of technology increases as well. With each technological tool, particularly those connected to a network, an organization introduces potential vulnerabilities. EA seeks to optimize the use of technology without allowing threat actors to gain a foothold. 

This can be accomplished by enhancing security at the edges of the network, within an on-premises network, or by shifting some processes to a secure cloud solution. EA also includes making everyday practices more secure through education and the use of application-specific tools, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).

Data Compliance

Because a business’s data is a constant temptation for hackers, making sure the organization is in compliance with all applicable standards and regulation is a top priority of EA. This is particularly important when it comes to big data because not only the data but the processes used to analyze it need to be secured. 

With large influxes of data going through a company’s system on a daily basis, security protocols need to be airtight. This is particularly true when it comes to data pertaining to customer payment information, health information, and other kinds of data that government regulations seek to protect.

Standards Governance

Organizing and implementing the standards that control how a business secures its data and processes needs to be done in a way that brings all stakeholders on board. EA prioritizes this process, ensuring that all those affected by standards, as well as those who can impact compliance by their behavior and decisions, are united on the same page.

A key step in standards governance is researching which standards apply and then making sure the organization keeps this list up to date. Then the policies pertaining to how the company remains in compliance are published for all necessary team members to refer to. Lastly, measures are put in place to manage the company's compliance level, assessing successes and lapses in a transparent manner.

Going from a Monolith Structure to Microservices

Monolithic structures often become too large to handle, and it is not until a company is suffering losses or teams are feeling stress that the issue comes to the fore. EA explores how microservices can ease the problem by incorporating individual teams dedicated to each service, streamlining the selection of technologies for each service, and allowing each service to operate according to carefully chosen, unique objectives. 

When the IT or development team has to design a solution, the process is easier with microservices because the steps taken are far simpler than they would have been with a monolithic structure.

Cloud Transformation

With the rise in mobile technologies and work solutions, cloud transformation is becoming an increasingly popular task for EA. The cloud gives businesses enhanced flexibility and scalability, all while potentially saving money. However, it is not always best for a business to commit 100% of its processes to the cloud—even when it comes to basic cloud applications, such as storage. 

EA seeks to guide this process, analyzing the benefits of migrating individual systems and how that impacts the company’s plans as a whole.

IoT Architecture

Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, when properly used, can make work easier for businesses and provide convenient solutions for customers. EA assesses the ways in which IoT architecture can help a company improve its systems or what it offers to customers. IoT may need to incorporate edge computing environments, and with EA, a company can investigate how to introduce this kind of setup without compromising safety.

Benefits of Enterprise Architecture

EA comes with direct benefits for the business, as well as auxiliary advantages that grow organically from the process. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Fostering more collaboration between teams. This may include those who need to work side by side to accomplish the business’s goals. It may also involve cross-collaboration between previously separated teams, such as the IT team and marketing, sales, software development, or other teams.
  2. Helping the organization make sure it gets the most out of its investments. As systems and resources are consolidated, the business makes better use of its various expenditures.
  3. Comparing what existing architecture is doing to what it was designated to do. This allows the organization to ensure everything is working toward long-term goals the way it is supposed to.
  4. Streamlining the procurement and evaluation of technology.
  5. Communicating how IT architecture supports individual business processes. In this way, EA removes the veil that often exists between IT teams and how they benefit the bottom line.
  6. Designing benchmarks that enable the organization to compare itself with the competition or its peers. EA can make previously nebulous standards quantifiable so they can be put alongside those of others and evaluated.

Enterprise Architecture Framework and Methodologies

EA can be a broad concept that can be tough to grasp. However, it can be broken down into different frameworks that companies can use to implement strategies.

The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF)

TOGAF focuses on ways to plan, design, implement, and govern a business’s IT architecture. It uses common language, standards, and tools meant to help a business maintain compliance and allow teams to work together instead of in isolation.

The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture

The Zachman approach is designed to standardize the IT architecture of an organization. To do this, it uses six focal points and incorporates six stakeholders, outlining how they interface to accomplish objectives.

Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF)

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 gave birth to FEAF, which requires government agencies to more effectively organize how they operate.

Gartner’s Enterprise Architecture Framework

Gartner, after it acquired The Meta Group, set up best practices designed to focus on specific outcomes while simplifying the steps and components needed to accomplish them.

Enterprise Architecture Tools and Software

There are a number of tools that make EA planning and execution easier. Some come with functionality specifically designed for EA applications. These include:

  1. BOC Group
  2. Planview
  3. SAP
  4. BiZZdesign
  5. Mega
  6. Erwin
  7. Avolution
  8. Sparx Systems
  9. Software AG
  10. Orbus Software

Enterprise Architecture Certificates

Professionals that specialize in EA can provide potential clients with specific qualifications meant to verify their abilities. Some of these include:

  1. The Open Group Certified Architect (Open CA)
  2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP)
  3. Salesforce Certified Technical Architect (CTA)
  4. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solution Architect
  5. Dell EMC Cloud Architect Training and Certification
  6. Microsoft Certified Architect
  7. Professional Cloud Solutions Architect Certification
  8. Red Hat Certified Architect
  9. Axelos Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Master Certification
  10. International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC Council) Certified Network Defense Architect (CNDA)
  11. Virtualization Council Master Infrastructure Architect Certification
  12. TOGAF 9 Certification

How Fortinet Can Help

EA often involves finding a comprehensive security solution that the business can depend on. Fortinet FortiGate NGFWs provides enhanced security for the entire enterprise. As a next-generation firewall (NGFW), FortiGate can filter traffic according to the current state of the network, only allowing connections that meet the established, safe guidelines. FortiGate can also protect the network from a long, ever-expanding list of threats on the landscape. When a threat matches the profile of a known malicious element, FortiGate eliminates it. 

FortiGate can also perform deep packet inspection (DPI) to find novel threats. It uses machine-learning algorithms to figure out which data packets may pose a threat. IT admins can then set up rules to dispose of the threats altogether or put them in a sandboxed environment.

FortiGate is a particularly effective tool for EA because of its high throughput. Inspecting data as it flows to and from a network has the potential to create performance-hindering bottlenecks. However, because FortiGate comes with high-throughput processors, it can filter more data faster, allowing your network to operate as well as users expect.

In addition, Fortinet FortiGuard protects a business from a range of threats, including ransomware and phishing attacks. As part of the Fortinet Security Fabric, FortiGuard can detect and mitigate threats using advanced threat intelligence gathered from all over the globe. In this way, an entire enterprise can both streamline its security and ensure a safer working environment for its teams.