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Cloud Computing and Enterprise Architecture

by John A. Zachman

Here is a popular, new question that is posed to me:  "What kind of impact is the rise in cloud computing having on enterprise architecture?"

Here is my response:
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.

I doubt that you would want to change the manual, material-handling aspects of your Enterprise based on Cloud Computing, and you may not want to change your strategic or core systems; however, if you wanted to change any automated systems, and if you have Enterprise Architecture designed for accommodating complexity and change, then you should be able to:

  1. Move the enterprise records off site to run on different data storage technologies and/or different database management systems products (Column 1: Rows 4, 5),

  2. Redefine the transaction flow based on different technology characteristics and/or recompile your instructions with different compiler products (Column 2: Rows 4, 5),

  3. Restructure the data network and address structures for storing your records and programs external to the Enterprise, running them on different operating systems (Column 3: Rows 4, 5),

  4. Reallocate the responsibility for producing the work products (screen formats and reports) to an agency outside of your jurisdictional control possibly using different formatting products (Column 4: Rows 4, 5),

  5. Redefine the control structures based on the different technological constraints and integrate those changes into the programmatic instructions (Column 5: Rows 4, 5),

  6. Change your technology motivations (your technology objectives and strategies) based on the Cloud infrastructure to identify the associated risks and modify your Business Rules appropriately (Column 6: Rows 4, 5)…

…all with minimum time, disruption, and cost.

In fact, if you have your Enterprise Architecture stored in a repository, I think I would SIMULATE those changes before I actually made any of them to make sure I did not introduce any discontinuities or dis-functionality that would disrupt the Enterprise business.

In fact, if you have your Enterprise Architecture and if the Repository tool in which it is maintained enables you to do these kinds of simulations, then I would also simulate how these potential changes could affect your Business Strategies (Row 1), your Business Concepts (Row 2), and your System Logic (Row 3) including the strategic systems and core systems to see if they would be impacted or if you could capitalize on these technology changes to re-think the Strategies (Row 1), the Business Concepts (Row 2), and the System Logic (Row 3) for business advantage.  Then you could make modifications and re-transform those modifications into a new instantiation with new technologies (Row 4) and new technology products (Row 5) that you would have a high degree of assurance that it would work as expected.

While you are doing these simulations, you probably would want to examine the costs, disruption, and time for making the changes as well as the risks, especially if you are going to move things outside of your jurisdictional control.

ON THE OTHER HAND, if you DON'T have Enterprise Architecture made explicit and maintained or if it has NOT been designed to accommodate extreme complexity and extreme change, then I would start working fast and hard to create your Enterprise Architecture and engineer it to accommodate extreme complexity and extreme rates of change because Cloud Computing is not likely to be the last technology innovation you are going to have to address.

That's all well and good, but if you have to start from scratch and create your Enterprise Architecture, you are not likely to have it completed during this budget cycle… it may take many budget cycles to simply accumulate a critical mass of Enterprise Architecture to get you ready for the next change.

At some point, my opinion is, someone better start working on this because the opportunities for changes are going to get more complex and more invasive and come at an ever-accelerating pace… and not only technology innovations but environmental shocks, regulatory proclamations, and global competition.  If you cannot assimilate the forthcoming changes, you are destined to go into "Future Shock"….[1]

So… what do you do about Cloud Computing right now if you DON'T have Enterprise Architecture or if it is NOT designed to accommodate extreme complexity and extreme change?  You have three options:

  1. Move whatever you want out to a Cloud and see if it works… maybe, after you get it moved, you might want to evaluate the cost, disruption, and time to move it and to operate it as well as any risks you have incurred by moving it outside of your jurisdictional control.

  2. If that is too high risk, then I would look at your inventory of data records, programmatic instructions, network structures and addresses, your screen formats and document formats, your technology timing cycles, and your technical objectives and strategies and compare them with the proposed new technology environment and develop a migration plan.

  3. If you don't have those inventories and it would take too long and cost too much to create them, then you can build some new portion of your Enterprise to run on some other technology environment on someone else's infrastructure.  If you chose this option, the question will rapidly become, how does this new Enterprise implementation relate to the existing Enterprise legacy implementations and how can you resolve any conflicts and discontinuities?

So, in short, the question, "What kind of impact does the rise in Cloud Computing have on Enterprise Architecture?" is probably not the right way to ask the question.  Probably a better way to ask it would be, "Is Cloud Computing a useful technology alternative for implementing our Enterprise (or at least portions of our Enterprise) and how would we affect that implementation to minimize our risk and maximize its utility?"

Then, I would suggest Enterprise Architecture is fundamental to answering this more appropriate question.  In fact, I don't think you can answer the question without Enterprise Architecture.  The only option you have is number 3 above, just build a new Cloud Computing implementation — in which case,

  • you are adding one more implementation to the legacy of systems and likely recreating something that is already implemented (spending money that doesn't have to be spent) and

  • adding general and administrative costs, additional on-going operating expenses to the Enterprise reconciling (interfacing) the new implementations to existing systems (less the cost/benefit realization of the new implementation) and

  • increasing the existing complexity of business operations and

  • inhibiting subsequent changes.

You can take refuge in the fact that the global playing field as it relates to Enterprise Architecture in 2011 is pretty flat… no one has substantial advantage.  The question this begs however is, how long will that last???

Practically, in the short term, I would try out Cloud computing and try to understand its utility and its risks… but at the same time, I would start making the long-term investment in Enterprise Architecture.  Enterprise Architecture, the knowledgebase of the Enterprise, creates the Knowledge Advantage paramount to Enterprise viability and success in the Information Age.

Furthermore… and even more importantly, Enterprise Architecture also facilitates the assimilation of extreme change, another even more daunting characteristic of the Information Age.  The biggest challenge facing the Information Age Enterprise may well be change, not only because of its increasing frequency, but because of the unpredictability of its sources including technological change, environmental change, economic change, regulatory change, market change, political change, cultural change… etc.

Seven-thousand years of known history of humankind establishes that the only known strategy for accommodating extreme complexity and extreme change is…


This article can also be viewed on John's website — presented here, with permission.


[1]  See Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, Bantam Books 1970.  return to article

standard citation for this article:
John A. Zachman, "Cloud Computing and Enterprise Architecture," Business Rules Journal, Vol. 16, No. 8 (August 2015), URL:  

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March 2016
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February 2016
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January 2016
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December 2015
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November 2015
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September 2015
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June 2015
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May 2015
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November 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Frameworks, Reference Models, and Matrices


August 2003

Framework Fundamentals: A Dialog With John Zachman


June 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Miscellaneous Enterprise Engineering Concepts


April 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Framework Fundamentals: Level of Detail is a Function of a CELL


February 2003

Framework Fundamentals: Responding to Questions from the OMG


May 2002

Enterprise Quantum Mechanics (Part 2)


March 2002

Enterprise Quantum Mechanics (Part 1)


January 2002

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November 2001

Security And The "Zachman Framework"


September 2001

Fatal Distractions (Part 2)


July 2001

Fatal Distractions (Part 1)


May 2001

You Can't "Cost-Justify" Architecture


March 2001

Conceptual, Logical, Physical: It Is Simple (Part 2 of 2)


January 2001

Conceptual, Logical, Physical: It Is Simple (Part 1 of 2)


September 2000

Building The Enterprise - An Infusion Of Honesty


July 2000

All the Reasons Why You Can't Do Architecture or ("We Has Met the Enemy and He Is Us")


May 2000

Enterprise Architecture Artifacts vs Application Development Artifacts (Part 2)


March 2000

Enterprise Architecture Artifacts vs Application Development Artifacts (Part 1)


November/December 1999 & January/February 2000

Enterprise Architecture: Issues, Ingibitors, and Incentives

July/August & September/October 1999

Packages Don't Let You Off The Hook

By John A. Zachman

January/February & March/April 1999

Life Is a Series of Trade-Offs and Change Is Accelerating!

November/December 1998

"Yes Virginia, There IS an Enterprise Architecture"

July/August 1998

Enterprise Architecture: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

January/February 1998

The Framework for Enterprise Architecture (The 'Zachman Framework') and the Search for the Owner's View of Business Rules



 about . . .



John A. Zachman is the originator of the “Framework for Enterprise Architecture” (The Zachman Framework™) which has received broad acceptance around the world as an integrative framework, an ontology for descriptive representations for Enterprises. Mr. Zachman is not only known for this work on Enterprise Architecture, but is also known for his early contributions to IBM’s Information Strategy methodology (Business Systems Planning) as well as to their Executive team planning techniques (Intensive Planning).

Mr. Zachman retired from IBM in 1990, having served them for 26 years. He is Chief Executive Officer of his own education and consulting business, Zachman International®.

Mr. Zachman serves on the Executive Council for Information Management and Technology (ECIMT) of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and on the Advisory Board of the Data Administration Management Association International (DAMA-I) from whom he was awarded the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award. He was awarded the 2009 Enterprise Architecture Professional Lifetime Achievement Award from the Center for Advancement of the Enterprise Architecture Profession as well as the 2004 Oakland University, Applied Technology in Business (ATIB), Award for IS Excellence and Innovation.  In August 2011,  he was awarded the Gen. Colin Powell Public Sector Image Award by the Armed Services Alliance Program.

Mr. Zachman has been focusing on Enterprise Architecture since 1970 and has written extensively on the subject. He has facilitated innumerable executive team planning sessions. He travels nationally and internationally, teaching and consulting, and is a popular conference speaker, known for his motivating messages on Enterprise Architecture issues. He has spoken to many thousands of enterprise managers and information professionals on every continent.

In addition to his professional activities, Mr. Zachman serves on the Elder Council of the Church on the Way (First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California), the Board of Directors of Living Way Ministries, a radio and television ministry of the Church on the Way, the President’s Cabinet of the King’s College University, the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Citywide Children’s Christian Choir, the Board of Directors of Heavenworks, an international ministry to the French-speaking world and on the Board of Directors of Native Hope International, a Los Angeles-based ministry to the Native American people.

Prior to joining IBM, Mr. Zachman served as a line officer in the United States Navy and is a retired Commander in the U. S. Naval Reserve. He chaired a panel on "Planning, Development and Maintenance Tools and Methods Integration"  for the U. S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. He holds a degree in Chemistry from Northwestern University, has taught at Tufts University, has served on the Board of Councilors for the School of Library and Information Management at the University of Southern California, as a Special Advisor to the School of Library and Information Managementat Emporia State University, on the Advisory Council to the School of Library and Information Managementat Dominican University and on the Advisory Board for the Data Resource Management Programat the University of Washington. He has been a Fellow for the College of Business Administration of the University of North Texas and currently is listed in Cambridge Who’s Who.




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