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Architecture on the Edge

Normally in IT and software, when we think of architecture on the edge, we think of how to make applications accessible beyond the desktop, to the factory floor, or to handheld and mobile devices. But Michael Platt, a web architect at Microsoft and keynote speaker at the Enterprise Architect Summit, had other ideas.

Michael noted that many of the innovations that enterprises are just starting to become aware of originate among the consumer spaces. In particular, he cites lightweight technologies that make consumer web sites more agile, in particular, the REST architectural style. That stands for Representational State Transfer, an architecture that emphasizes revealing data gradually in a lightweight way using POST and GET rather than heavier interfaces (see for a good summary description). Consumer sites such as MySpace are using these approaches to build sites that easily scale into the millions of users.

Michael outlines several sets of architectural approaches that have been explored in the consumer space and are worth looking into by enterprises seeking to radically change how they interact within and outside of their organizations. These are:

  • Relationship management. Enterprises seeking to build better bridges to their customers must reassess how they interact, using technologies to open more nontraditional lines of communication.
  • User-generated rich content. Often customer know more about products than the manufacturer. Tapping into this knowledge through media such as wiki and online product reviews can make the enterprise be far more responsive than it is today.
  • Collaboration. Enterprises need to continue breaking down silos so that information can more easily flow between different parts of the organization.
Techniques for achieving these goals have already been tested on many consumer-oriented sites. It is time to bring some of those techniques into the enterprise.

Posted by Peter Varhol on 05/16/2006

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