By Dr. Chris Harding, Director for Interoperability, The Open Group
The Open Group published a White Paper on Open Platform 3.0™ at the start of its conference in Amsterdam in May 2014. This article, based on a presentation given at the conference, explains how the definition of the platform is beginning to emerge.
Amsterdam is a beautiful place. Walking along the canals is like moving through a set of picture postcards. But as you look up at the houses beside the canals, and you see the cargo hoists that many of them have, you are reminded that the purpose of the arrangement was not to give pleasure to tourists. Amsterdam is a great trading city, and the canals were built as a very efficient way of moving goods around.
This is also a reminder that the primary purpose of architecture is not to look beautiful, but to deliver business value, though surprisingly, the two often seem to go together quite well.
When those canals were first thought of, it might not have been obvious that this was the right thing to do for Amsterdam. Certainly the right layout for the canal network would not be obvious. The beginning of a project is always a little uncertain, and seeing the idea begin to take shape is exciting. That is where we are with Open Platform 3.0 right now.
We started with the intention to define a platform to enable enterprises to get value from new technologies including cloud computing, social computing, mobile computing, big data, the Internet of Things, and perhaps others. We developed an Open Group business scenario to capture the business requirements. We developed a set of business use-cases to show how people are using and wanting to use those technologies. And that leads to the next step, which is to define the platform. All these new technologies and their applications sound wonderful, but what actually is Open Platform 3.0?
The Third Platform
Looking historically, the first platform was the computer operating system. A vendor-independent operating system interface was defined by the UNIX® standard. The X/Open Company and the Open Software Foundation (OSF), which later combined to form The Open Group, were created because companies everywhere were complaining that they were locked into proprietary operating systems. They wanted applications portability. X/Open specified the UNIX® operating system as a common application environment, and the value that it delivered was to prevent vendor lock-in.
The second platform is the World Wide Web. It is a common services environment, for services used by people browsing web pages or for web services used by programs. The value delivered is universal deployment and access. Any person or company anywhere can create a services-based solution and deploy it on the web, and every person or company throughout the world can access that solution.
Open Platform 3.0 is developing as a common architecture environment. This does not mean it is a replacement for TOGAF®. TOGAF is about how you do architecture and will continue to be used with Open Platform 3.0. Open Platform 3.0 is about what kind of architecture you will create. It will be a common environment in which enterprises can do architecture. The big business benefit that it will deliver is integrated solutions.
Figure 1: The Third Platform
With the second platform, you can develop solutions. Anyone can develop a solution based on services accessible over the World Wide Web. But independently-developed web service solutions will very rarely work together “out of the box”.
There is an increasing need for such solutions to work together. We see this need when looking at The Open Platform 3.0 technologies. People want to use these technologies together. There are solutions that use them, but they have been developed independently of each other and have to be integrated. That is why Open Platform 3.0 has to deliver a way of integrating solutions that have been developed independently.
Common Architecture Environment
The Open Group has recently published its first thoughts on Open Platform 3.0 in the Open Platform 3.0 White Paper. This lists a number of things that will eventually be in the Open Platform 3.0 standard. Many of these are common architecture artifacts that can be used in solution development. They will form a common architecture environment. They are:
- Statement of need, objectives, and principles – this is not part of that environment of course; it says why we are creating it.
- Definitions of key terms – clearly you must share an understanding of the key terms if you are going to develop common solutions or integrable solutions.
- Stakeholders and their concerns – an understanding of these is an important aspect of an architecture development, and something that we need in the standard.
- Capabilities map – this shows what the products and services that are in the platform do.
- Basic models – these show how the platform components work with each other and with other products and services.
- Explanation of how the models can be combined to realize solutions – this is an important point and one that the white paper does not yet start to address.
- Standards and guidelines that govern how the products and services interoperate – these are not standards that The Open Group is likely to produce, they will almost certainly be produced by other bodies, but we need to identify the appropriate ones and probably in some cases coordinate with the appropriate bodies to see that they are developed.
The Open Platform 3.0 White Paper contains an initial statement of needs, objectives and principles, definitions of some key terms, a first-pass list of stakeholders and their concerns, and half a dozen basic models. The basic models are in an analysis of the business use-cases for Open Platform 3.0 that were developed earlier.
These are just starting points. The white paper is incomplete: each of the sections is incomplete in itself, and of course the white paper does not contain all the sections that will be in the standard. And it is all subject to change.
An Example Basic Model
The figure shows a basic model that could be part of the Open Platform 3.0 common architecture environment.
Figure 2: Mobile Connected Device Model
This is the Mobile Connected Device Model: one of the basic models that we identified in the snapshot. It comes up quite often in the use-cases.
The stack on the left is a mobile device. It has a user, it has apps, it has a platform which would probably be Android or iOS, it has infrastructure that supports the platform, and it is connected to the World Wide Web, because that’s part of the definition of mobile computing.
On the right you see, and this is a frequently encountered pattern, that you don’t just use your mobile device for running apps. Maybe you connect it to a printer, maybe you connect it to your headphones, maybe you connect it to somebody’s payment terminal, you can connect it to many things. You might do this through a Universal Serial Bus (USB). You might do it through Bluetooth. You might do it by Near Field Communications (NFC). You might use other kinds of local connection.
The device you connect to may be operated by yourself (e.g. if it is headphones), or by another organization (e.g. if it is a payment terminal). In the latter case you typically have a business relationship with the operator of the connected device.
That is an example of the basic models that came up in the analysis of the use-cases. It is captured in the White Paper. It is fundamental to mobile computing and is also relevant to the Internet of Things.
Access to Technologies
This figure captures our understanding of the need to obtain information from the new technologies, social media, mobile devices, sensors and so on, the need to process that information, maybe on the cloud, to manage it and, ultimately, to deliver it in a form where there is analysis and reasoning that enables enterprises to take business decisions.
Figure 3: Access to Technologies
The delivery of information to improve the quality of decisions is the source of real business value.
The next figure captures a requirement that we picked up in the development of the business scenario.
Figure 4: User-Driven IT
Traditionally, you would have had the business use in the business departments of an enterprise, and pretty much everything else in the IT department. But we are seeing two big changes. One is that the business users are getting smarter, more able to use technology. The other is they want to use technology themselves, or to have business technologists closely working with them, rather than accessing it indirectly through the IT department.
The systems provisioning and management is now often done by cloud service providers, and the programming and integration and helpdesk by cloud brokers, or by an IT department that plays a broker role, rather than working in the traditional way.
The business still needs to retain responsibility for the overall architecture and for compliance. If you do something against your company’s principles, your customers will hold you responsible. It is no defense to say, “Our broker did it that way.” Similarly, if you break the law, your broker does not go to jail, you do. So those things will continue to be more associated with the business departments, even as the rest is devolved.
In short, businesses have a new way of using IT that Open Platform 3.0 must and will accommodate.
Integration of Independently-Developed Solutions
The next figure illustrates how the integration of independently developed solutions can be achieved.
Figure 5: Architecture Integration
It shows two solutions, which come from the analysis of different business use-cases. They share a common model, which makes it much easier to integrate them. That is why the Open Platform 3.0 standard will define common models for access to the new technologies.
The Open Platform 3.0 standard will have other common artifacts: architectural principles, stakeholder definitions and descriptions, and so on. Independently-developed architectures that use them can be integrated more easily.
Enterprises develop their architectures independently, but engage with other enterprises in business ecosystems that require shared solutions. Increasingly, business relationships are dynamic, and there is no time to develop an agreed ecosystem architecture from scratch. Use of the same architecture platform, with a common architecture environment including elements such as principles, stakeholder concerns, and basic models, enables the enterprise architectures to be integrated, and shared solutions to be developed quickly.
Completing the Definition
How will we complete the definition of Open Platform 3.0?
The Open Platform 3.0 Forum recently published a set of 22 business use-cases – the Nexus of Forces in Action. These use-cases show the application of Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things in a wide variety of business areas.
Figure 6: Business Use-Cases
The figure comes from that White Paper and shows some of those areas: multimedia, social networks, building energy management, smart appliances, financial services, medical research, and so on.
We have started to analyze those use-cases. This is an ArchiMate model showing how our first business use-case, The Mobile Smart Store, could be realized.
Figure 7: Use-Case Analysis
As you look at it you see common models. Outlined on the left is a basic model that is pretty much the same as the original TOGAF Technical Reference Model. The main difference is the addition of a business layer (which shows how enterprise architecture has moved in the business direction since the TRM was defined).
But you also see that the same model appears in the use-case in a different place, as outlined on the right. It appears many times throughout the business use-cases.
Finally, you can see that the Mobile Connected Device Model has appeared in this use-case (outlined in the center). It appears in other use-cases too.
As we analyze the use-cases, we find common models, as well as common principles, common stakeholders, and other artifacts.
The Development Cycle
We have a development cycle: understanding the value of the platform by considering use-cases, analyzing those use-cases to derive common features, and documenting the common features in a specification.
Figure 8: The Development Cycle
The Open Platform 3.0 White Paper represents the very first pass through that cycle, further passes will result in further White Papers, a snapshot, and ultimately The Open Platform 3.0 standard, and no doubt more than one version of that standard.
Open Platform 3.0 provides a common architecture environment. This enables enterprises to derive business value from social computing, mobile computing, big data, the Internet-of-Things, and potentially other new technologies.
Cognitive computing, for example, has been suggested as another technology that Open Platform 3.0 might in due course accommodate. What would that lead to? There would be additional use-cases, which would lead to further analysis, which would no doubt identify some basic models for cognitive computing, which would be added to the platform.
Open Platform 3.0 enables enterprise IT to be user-driven. There is a revolution in the way that businesses use IT. Users are becoming smarter and more able to use technology, and want to do so directly, rather than through a separate IT department. Business departments are taking in business technologists who understand how to use technology for business purposes. Some companies are closing their IT departments and using cloud brokers instead. In other companies, the IT department is taking on a broker role, sourcing technology that business people use directly.Open Platform 3.0 will be part of that revolution.
Open Platform 3.0 will deliver the ability to integrate solutions that have been independently developed. Businesses typically exist within one or more business ecosystems. Those ecosystems are dynamic: partners join, partners leave, and businesses cannot standardize the whole architecture across the ecosystem; it would be nice to do so but, by the time it was done, the business opportunity would be gone. Integration of independently developed architectures is crucial to the world of business ecosystems and delivering value within them.
Call for Input
The platform will deliver a common architecture environment, user-driven enterprise IT, and the ability to integrate solutions that have been independently developed. The Open Platform 3.0 Forum is defining it through an iterative process of understanding the content, analyzing the use-cases, and documenting the common features. We welcome input and comments from other individuals within and outside The Open Group and from other industry bodies.
If you have comments on the way Open Platform 3.0 is developing or input on the way it should develop, please tell us! You can do so by sending mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your comments on our blog.
The Open Platform 3.0 White Paper: https://www2.opengroup.org/ogsys/catalog/W147
The Nexus of Forces in Action: https://www2.opengroup.org/ogsys/catalog/W145
Dr. Chris Harding is Director for Interoperability at The Open Group. He has been with The Open Group for more than ten years, and is currently responsible for managing and supporting its work on interoperability, including SOA and interoperability aspects of Cloud Computing, and the Open Platform 3.0™ Forum. He is a member of the BCS, the IEEE and the AEA, and is a certified TOGAF® practitioner.