Welcome to the Virtual World…

The Enterprise Technology Architecture, Part 2


There are many times when we have certain expectations, and yet reality proves to be something different than expected.   Case in point, the image above shows us an expectation of a “virtual world” based on the 1999 movie, The Matrix, in contrast with an example of the recent personal virtual reality technology.  What we expected (or hoped for) is not what we got.   In the same way, this blog entry is not about virtual reality, but a discussion about system virtualization.

There is no spoon….


In general, virtualization refers to the technology that creates a logical (virtual) system instead of a physical system, specifically in the field of computer hardware.   This hardware can be servers, storage devices, or even network resources.  This practice started in a primitive form back in the 1960s on mainframe computers, but has gradually increased in scope and capabilities and is a mainstream technology used today.  In a simple breakdown, virtualization falls into the following categories:

  • Platform/Hardware virtualization – A full virtual machine acts as a real computer with it’s own operating system.
  • Desktop virtualization – A logical desktop which can run on any physical client while processing takes place on a separate host system.
  • Application Virtualization – An application runs off a client machine, but in reality is being hosted on larger system which typically has greater processing power.

Interestingly enough, this has a direct correlation to the different service types provided in the cloud-computing environments, as I talked about a number of weeks ago in Let’s get Saassy.

  • SaaS – Software as a Service: The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.
  • PaaS – Platform as a Service: The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.
  • IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service: The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

This direct correlation is due to the fact that most cloud computing technology heavily relies on virtualization to function.  “Virtualization is a foundational element of cloud computing and helps deliver on the value of cloud computing. While cloud computing is the delivery of shared computing resources, software or data — as a service and on-demand through the Internet” (Angeles, 2014).

So how does virtualization tie back into Enterprise Technology architecture and Enterprise Architecture in general?

In response to a question regarding the impact of virtualization and cloud computing on Enterprise Architecture, John Zachman (2011), creator of the Zachman Framework, stated:

The whole idea of Enterprise Architecture is to enable the Enterprise to address orders of magnitude increases in complexity and orders of magnitude increases in the rate of change. Therefore, if you have Enterprise Architecture, and if you have made that Enterprise Architecture explicit, and if you have designed it correctly, you should be able to change the Enterprise and/or its formalisms (that is, its systems, manual or automated) with minimum time, minimum disruption and minimum cost.

Adrian Grigoriu, author of An Enterprise Architecture Development Framework, further expounded on the benefits virtualization brings to Enterprise Architecture (2008).

In this fast moving world, the business of an Enterprise, its logic, should not depend on IT technology, that is what it is or its implementation. Business activities should be performed regardless of technology and free from tomorrow’s new IT hype. Why be concerned whether it is mainframe, COBOL, JavaEE or .NET, Smalltalk, 4GL or AS400 RPG! At the same cost/performance level, IT should decide technology realizing that ongoing change is inevitable.

Business should be willing to adopt technology virtualization to be able to interact with IT technology at a service level, where the negotiation between business and IT is performed in a communication language structured in terms of capabilities, relative feature merits, and their cost. IT functional and non-functional capabilities will be delivered under SLAs at an agreed price.  IT virtualization adds an interface layer hiding the IT implementation complexity and technology, while bridging the divide between business and IT.

Even back in 2008 and 2011, Enterprise Architecture leaders realized the benefits that could be gained from virtualization.  Considering the growth of the technology since then, the benefits have exponentially multiplied.  EA ultimately relies on technology itself to be efficient, therefore, technology that allows for rapid changes will always be of primary importance.   In addition, virtualization brings reduced complexity, lowered costs, simplified IT management, improved security and flexible IT service delivery to the organization. These benefits not only help EA, but IT and the organization in general.



Angeles, Susan. (2014). Virtualization vs. Could Computing: What’s the Difference?  Business News Daily.  Retrieved from http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5791-virtualization-vs-cloud-computing.html

Zachman, John. (2011). Cloud Computing and Enterprise Architecture.  Zachman Internaltional. Retrieved from https://www.zachman.com/ea-articles-reference/55-cloud-computing-and-enterprise-architecture-by-john-a-zachman

Grigoriu, Adrian. (2008). The Virtualization of the Enterprise. BPTrends.  Retrieved from http://www.bptrends.com/the-virtualization-of-the-enterprise/


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