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[Architecture] Recommended reading - Eight Architecture Lessons from History

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 Sunday, January 08, 2006
Sunday, January 08, 2006 2:51:07 PM (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)

Srikanth Narasimhan, Cisco Systems, describes in his "Eight Architecture Lessons from History" [1] an analogy that pre-dates emergence of architecture concepts in any field. Here is an excerpt "Understanding IT architecture complexity":

According to an old legend, King Shirham of India wanted to reward his grand vizer Sissa Ben Dahir for inventing and presenting to him the game of chess. The desires of the clever vizier seemed very modest. "Majesty", he said kneeling in front of the king, "give me a grain of wheat to put on the first square of this chessboard, and two grains to put on the second square, and four grains to put on the third, and eight grains to put on the fourth. And so, oh King, doubling the number for each succeeding square, give me enough grains to cover all 64 squares of the board."

"You do not ask for much, oh my faithful servant," exclaimed the king, silently enjoying the thought that his liberal proposal of a gift to the inventor of the miraculous game would not cost him much of his treasure. "Your wish will certainly be granted". And he ordered a bag of wheat to be brought to the throne. But when the counting began, with 1 grain for the first square, 2 for the second, 4 for the third and so forth, the bag was emptied before the twentieth square was accounted for. Many bags of wheat were brought before the king but the number of grains needed for each succeeding square increased so rapidly that it soon became clear that with all the crop of India the king cold not fulfill his promise to Sisa Ben. To do so would have required 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains, an equivalent of world’s wheat production for the period of some two thousand years! 

There is a parallel to an IT architecture problem of the 21st century – business process integration. Throughout the past two decades, enterprises spent time in creating silos of internet applications. Now enterprises are faced with not only needing to create new applications but also face the daunting task of integrating the existing ones. Every time you invest in creating an IT application, it is very likely that the application needs to be integrated with the existing and new applications. If there are 200 existing applications in an enterprise then the number of possible connections among the 200 applications is n(n-1) i.e. 200*(200-1) = 39800 two way connections. Obviously the end result is not a pretty picture.

Lesson: Every time you add a new application to your enterprise portfolio, think of the n(n-1) scenario; sooner or later it can assume monstrous proportions and bite you!

[1] http://www.sei.cmu.edu/architecture/eight_lessons.pdf