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What is IT Architecture?

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IT architecture is the design of information technology at the structural level.

Architecture vs Design

As information technology tends to be complex, it is often helpful to design it at both the structural level and implementation level. This is analogous to an architect designing a building and a variety of interior designers planning the interiors of the building's rooms.

Types

IT architecture has several common variations:
Enterprise Architecture
Top level planning of technology strategy and structures.
Infrastructure Architecture
Planning and design of IT infrastructure. Often referred to as "technology architecture."
Systems Architecture
Planning and design of software that automates work.
Applications Architecture
Planning and design of software that people use.
Data Architecture
Design of models, processes, policies and standards for managing and using data.
Specialists
It is common for architects to specialize in a particular domain, technology or architectural approach. For example, an information security architect or cloud infrastructure architect.

Output

Architects perform analysis and design to document existing structures, gaps and future structures. Typical outputs are principles, structural specifications, processes, models and standards. These may span areas such as infrastructure, integration, systems, applications, data, information security, risk management, resilience and business structures.

Politics

It is a common failure of IT architecture to design worthy structures but to fail to push for their implementation. Architects are most effective when they are fully engaged in the political processes required to improve the structural design of technology. This is particularly true at the level of enterprise architecture that often requires significant authority and influence to implement.

Example

An organization has customer data that is replicated in 20+ systems and applications. The data is low quality and inconsistencies between sources is common. The process of updating customer data and maintaining various integration interfaces is expensive and error prone.
An enterprise architect designs a single source of truth for customer data and obtains agreement for the solution amongst major stakeholders. The architect is a key member of the project to implement the solution. Enterprise architecture also plays a governance role in making sure that future systems use the single source of truth for customer data as opposed to replicating it as anything more than a disposable cache.
Overview: It Architecture Definition
Type
Definition
The design of information technology at the structural level.
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