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Infrastructure Architecture–from the Middle Ages to Now

i often wonder about how we go about performing Infrastructure Architecture in particular and Architecture in general. We spend a lot of time and effort creating frameworks such as Zachman and TOGAF; we create large bodies of data in the form of Enterprise Architecture bodies; we have patterns and reference architecture and the body of white papers and other advertorial content produced by, or on behalf of, vendors.

When it comes down to to actually putting infrastructure on the ground how much of this do we actually use & think about?

Are we like the research scientist looking for  the best answer to solve the problem that we are investigating or are we more like the master mason’s of the Medieval period that built Europe’s great cathedrals, churches and castles?

My feeling is that in many cases we are more like the later.

We have a set of techniques, tricks and tips that we know work because we have used them before. We learn new techniques by working with different people –changing jobs, contractors coming into the organisation  etc.  Often this information ends up being traded. We often serve a long apprenticeship working up through building servers, configuring OS and applications and troubleshooting. When we are deemed worthy – skilled and knowledgeable enough – we are presented with our own projects.

Pretty much parallels the Guild system of the Middle Ages!

Next time you are planning some infrastructure architecture think back on the heritage of how we apply our knowledge. Hopefully one day we will be in the position that it becomes more science than art – when that happens though some of the fun will have gone

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