A representative of services company EDS was last week promoting an unusual technique for designing IT architecture, even though it is not one that’s popular internationally and EDS does not use it internally.
The speaker, Ben Ponne of EDS’s NZ solutions centre, spoke to a small group of influential specialists in Wellington about the reference model for open distributed processing (RM-ODP), a formal technique for long-term architecture design. However, he acknowledges the six-year-old discipline has not proved popular, probably because of its complex, or as he says, “inscrutable”, nature. It is not used generally within EDS, though he says it is being “evaluated” there.
Ponne contends, nevertheless, that RM-ODP will repay the effort put into learning its sometimes arcane terminology. A proper architecture design will encourage production of computer systems and applications that fit together smoothly and readily accept new components, and which reflect the business strategy of the company long-term, he says.
He says the potential of RM-ODP is being evaluated within EDS New Zealand’s “architectural virtual community”, but there has not yet been an attempt to promote it for use within the company. EDS has its own architectural methodology, Right Step.
RM-ODP does not get down to the level of individual application design, but the standards bodies that support it, including ISO, IEEE, the Object Management Group and the International Telecommunications Union, are working on a complementary set of application development methodologies.
Meanwhile, Ponne says, RM-ODP works well with iterative development approaches, like Rational’s Unified Process (RUP).
He compares the technique’s role to planning infrastructure for a town. Ensuring reliable power and water supplies and a roading network could be considered more important in a town-planning context than the design of buildings. Similarly, it would be unwise to put all an IT team’s effort into developing applications without a strategic framework within which they can smoothly operate and interoperate.
Ponne was speaking at a meeting of the New Zealand branch of the Worldwide Institute of Software Architects (WWISA). The international body last year published a book Architecting with RM-ODP. WWISA NZ is a chapter of the US-based international WWISA. Work will be done during this year towards formally constituting the local chapter as an incorporated society, “to give us a suitable structure for a chapter; an entity rather than a collection of individuals,” says WWISA NZ chairman Paul Ramsay.
The New Zealand institute has been in existence for two years and currently only meets two-monthly, but more frequent meetings are planned for later this year.