Nov 072017
 
 7th November 2017  Posted by at 1:17 pm No Responses »

By Phil Beauvoir & Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie

The Open Group’s conference in Amsterdam, October 2017

The theme of The Open Group’s conference in Amsterdam last October was “Architecting the Digital Enterprise – Making Standards Work”. We had been invited to talk ostensibly about the ArchiMate Exchange Format, ArchiMate® 3.0, and how these work together. Archi is renowned for being a tool that delivers an “executable standard” as it is ubiquitous, accessible and open source. Here’s the official summary of the presentation that we gave:

ArchiMate® 3.0 was released in June 2016. This latest version of the language represents an important evolution of the open standard that is used for Enterprise Architecture modelling.

Shortly after the release of this new version of the specification, work began on an updated version of the ArchiMate Exchange Format, an XML file format that supports the exchange of ArchiMate models between compliant tools. The new ArchiMate Exchange File Format for ArchiMate 3.0 standard is now a published standard, available from May 2017.

This new version of the Exchange Format not only supports the new concepts in the ArchiMate 3.0 specification but also supports the exchange of more advanced information such as custom viewpoints, concerns, and stakeholders and paves the way for adding new features such as model stereotypes.

In this presentation we outline the new features of the ArchiMate 3.0 Exchange Format and talk about its importance in terms of the exchange of ArchiMate models between tools and how this transparent data format is adding value to organisations by allowing them to visualise and analyse their data in new and interesting ways.

In addition to the original use case (exchange of models between tools) we’ll also speak about several new use-cases that uses the ArchiMate metamodel as a pivot for interesting things (information gathered through big data’s technologies, external scripting, CMDB exchange format together with CMDBf…).

As a summary that sounds pretty dry, so we thought about how to make this more interesting, given that we mention going “beyond modelling tools”. So we started our presentation in the future…

Beyond Modelling Tools – the EA Chatbot

Go forward in time, say five years, and imagine an EA Chatbot – an AI bot that you can talk to, interact with, and that could, for example, assist the Architect to quickly and easily find information about an in-house application, how it connects to other applications, and how it might be visualised. Let’s call the Chatbot “Archie“. We acted out the parts of JB as Architect, and Phil as the Chatbot:

 

Now come back to the present, October 2017. Does such an EA Bot exist? No, not really. But we can make it happen by moving the focus away from conventional modelling tools and thinking (call them legacy, first-generation tooling) and tracing a development from ArchiMate as a language, through to the ArchiMate Open Exchange Format and then on to Open Data, and, once we have that, to open tooling, paired with machine learning and natural language processing. This was presented as a simple equation:

J-B Sarrodie intends to go into greater depth about the EA Chatbot and the other aspects of the equation in a future blog post, so stay tuned.

ArchiMate® Exchange Format

We spoke a little about the history of the ArchiMate Open Exchange Format, its genesis, how it has been adopted, and how numerous users and developers have been empowered by having access to transparent data (vs. closed, proprietary data formats). We then covered the new changes introduced in ArchiMate 3.0, the need for an updated version of the Exchange Format and how users are taking the data and doing new and unexpected things with it. As Eric S. Raymond said:

And, it turns out, that the “truly great tool” in this case is not a desktop application, but rather the open data that the Exchange Format provides. We gave some examples of how users are manipulating and visualising this data, and how, for some organizations, it’s essential for them to archive their data in an open format (the EIRA project, for example).

Summary

The above is a brief summary of the presentation and, as I mentioned, JB intends to write more in detail about the EA Chatbot and other aspects in a future blog post, so stay tuned.

Here’s the static overview image of the presentation (once again, lovingly hand-drawn by JB):

And you can also view the full interactive Sozi presentation here.

ArchiMate Users Group

The first meeting of the ArchiMate Users Group was also held in Amsterdam during the conference. Over 50 people attended this, with a panel consisting of a broad range of representatives (including J-B Sarrodie). Everyone present was given the chance to briefly introduce themselves and their interest or role in using ArchiMate. This took up a fair portion of the meeting, but gave everyone the opportunity to hear about how ArchiMate is being used, and to put some names to faces. Speaking of which, also present at the Users Group was the leading expert and author of “Mastering ArchiMate“, Gerben Wierda. And here are the 3 Amigos, finally together in one room:

The 3 Amigos – Phil, Gerben, and JB

Overall, the conference and user group meeting was productive and informative and there was not enough time to talk to everyone. We had fun with our presentation and, we hope, offered a possible vision for the future and highlighted the potential for interesting developments once different stakeholders come together to work with Open Data and tooling.

The takeaways for the whole event for us, at least, were:

  • There are many Archi users out there who are using it to create ArchiMate models, and have different needs that go beyond the present implementation. It was great to meet some of them in person at the conference
  • The ArchiMate Exchange Format is used quite extensively, and is providing great value to all stakeholders
  • Users and developers are doing new and interesting things with ArchiMate open data and combining other technologies such as OWL, RDF, Graph Databases, CMDBs
  • Quite a few companies are building online repositories and services to store and work with EA models using Archi as a front end and the Exchange Format as means of transport

(Special thanks to Andrew Josey and The Open Group for facilitating this.)

Nov 042017
 
 4th November 2017  Posted by at 10:37 am No Responses »

More and more EA modellers are downloading Archi and getting up to speed with ArchiMate. We’re seeing around 1500 downloads of the tool every week. Because end user uptake is so high, and because Archi is so ubiquitous, we’re also learning about a greater number of developers and start-ups building services and providing solutions based around ArchiMate tooling and online EA and ArchiMate model repositories. The basic pattern for these solutions generally consists of an ArchiMate enabled desktop client importing and exporting models to a repository, via a web interface, using the tool’s native file format or the ArchiMate File Exchange Format. These repositories form the core of further EA services such as online editing, asset management, reporting, querying, dashboards, and visualisations.

What’s interesting is that many of these solutions are using the ArchiMate Exchange Format as a transport between client and server. Indeed, I heard from many delegates at The Open Group’s conference in Amsterdam last month about how important the Exchange Format has become, and how it has empowered users, developers, customers, and solution providers. (More about this and the presentation that J-B Sarrodie and I gave in Amsterdam in a future blog post)

Some of these solutions providers have contacted me to tell me that they are now provisioning Archi as the editor and connecting it to their repositories via their (commercial and free) interfaces. Whereas before they used to provide a package consisting of a recommended commercial desktop client software, together with their consultancy and custom repository to customers, solutions providers are now recommending Archi as the front-end editing tool on the desktop. One of the reasons for this is cost. Passing on the expense of several commercial licences for third-party tools to the customer is proving to be non-viable.

We can visualise the problem like this:

As-Was

And this leads to connection issues for stakeholders:

Given that these same providers are now recommending Archi as the client software we can visualise the successful business transformation like this:

As-Is and To-Be

Leading to a positive outcome:

Right now, we’re exploring possibilities for distributing the integration between Archi on the desktop and some providers’ repository solutions within Archi itself, either as custom plug-ins or via a new API. This will naturally lead to even more usage of Archi, ArchiMate and the ArchiMate Exchange Format, once again fulfilling J-B Sarrodie’s vision of “Archi Everywhere” or, to re-purpose (for better) the recent Twitter hashtag, #MAGA, “Make ArchiMate Great Again”.

I had, at one time, thought about building a dedicated online ArchiMate/EA Model store that connects to Archi, and considered in detail how this might work. The first requirement was to store ArchiMate models in the repository either in the Exchange Format, or at least export and import models in that format. Additional features included search, tags, ratings, user submissions, and user permissions. Here’s a mock-up I made:

ArchiMate Model Store – Mockup

I didn’t take this concept any further for various reasons, and I may not need to now. If a model repository provider can offer both paid for and free service plans, like those provided by GitHub, BitBucket and the like, then we might reach the point where their offerings scale to all levels of user requirements – free tooling on the desktop, free integration with online repositories and free provisioning, while additional paid-for services would fulfil advanced and commercial requirements – private repositories, support, dashboards, collaboration, and so on.

Another model repository alternative that you can use today is  the Archi Collaboration Plug-in, a Git-based solution that allows users to collaborate on Archi models in a distributed way. Just like Git, no single central repository is required and users can work off-line. This was the brainchild of J-B Sarrodie, and development was funded by Arismore and the French governmental agency, Pôle Emploi. We are still actively developing and promoting the plug-in, and it was very encouraging for J-B and I to receive very positive feedback from Archi users at The Open Group’s conference in Amsterdam last month. Several people told us about how they are using it in actual deployment. I wrote about the plug-in earlier this year, and you can find out more about it over on the Archi Plug-ins web page and on GitHub.

Archi Collaboration Plug-in

So, that’s a quick round-up of several new developments involving Archi, the ArchiMate Exchange Format, and online repositories. The Archi collaboration plug-in is being used now, and several other third-party repositories and solutions that use Archi as the client are also available, and you can find them online should you wish to pursue this.

But one other very important aspect of the continuing uptake of Archi as the desktop editor of choice is the issue of maintaining support and development of Archi. Archi is free to use, but most of the development work and all support is voluntary, free and done mainly by one or two people. This may be an issue for some solution providers’ clients and customers when assessing possible future risk. However, we welcome dialogue and are open to investment, collaboration and partnerships, so let’s all work together to ensure that this goose keeps laying those golden eggs. 🙂

Nov 032016
 
 3rd November 2016  Posted by at 7:29 pm 2 Responses »

By Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie

Last week I had the great opportunity to co-present at The Open Group’s October Conference in Paris, France. After Phil Beauvoir presented a summary of Archi’s history and we described the challenges of ArchiMate 3.0, I spoke about a vision for the future of Archi, EA and the ArchiMate ecosystem, taking ideas from DevOps and applying them to Archi and ArchiMate tooling. For those that weren’t with us, here is a 2nd chance…

New tools for a new EA practice

For the past 10 years, a strange thing happened: while (Enterprise) Architects used to have some of the best tools for their work, tool vendors seem to have forgotten to innovate, while at the same time, tools for Software Developers started to take off and offer some really new and exciting features. Why? How?

While I can’t speak for EA tool vendors, I can at least look at what happened in the software development domain. It seems to me that it all started back in 2005 when Linus Torvalds (yes, the same guy who created the Linux kernel) decided to create his own version control system, Git. Did Linus decide to change the world at that moment? No. Did he decide to create a whole new ecosystem for development? Again, no. What Linus did was simply to create a small piece of software for his own needs, but a free/open piece of software with some great features. Basically, what Linus created was a software version control system which allows easy creation of branches, and the ability to merge those (sometimes conflicting) branches. These simple but powerful features then became the building blocks for a powerful new toolset, which in turn laid the foundations for a whole ecosystem now known as DevOps. If I had to summarize what DevOps is, I’d say that it is a software development Capability. In short, a great mix of knowledge, processes and tools. Furthermore, most of these are open – open-knowledge, open-tools.

The GRAFICO plugin

The GRAFICO plugin for Archi

Between 2012 and 2014, there were many discussions on Archi’s Forum about how to make Archi usable in a multi-user environment. While most people tried to solve the problem using the same approach that existing commercial tools took (save the model in a database, and require user to lock part of the model to avoid conflicts) some users suggested to workaround this issue using existing tools like Git. Some early attempts proved that it was feasible, but no plugins were maintained after the initial proof of concept. That’s why in 2015 I decided to work on it with the help of Quentin Varquet. What we created then was a really simple plugin for Archi whose only goal was to save and load an ArchiMate model in a way that makes it manageable by Git, thus the name GRAFICO (Git FRiendly Archi FIle COllection). With the help of this plugin and some GitHub-like solution (e.g. GitBlit or GitBucket) I was able to work with my colleagues on the same model at the same time without any issues.

This work could have stopped at that point, but I decided to make this plugin available under a Creative Commons licence (the choice of a non really open licence was driven by the fact that too few people have donated to Archi, and that this was one opportunity to get some funding for it).

Experiment turned into crazy idea

When the experiment turned into a crazy idea

The great thing about open source is that there are always some people that think out of the box and then take your ideas and use them in an unexpected way. That’s what happened with the GRAFICO plugin. Despite being a proof of concept in beta, some people started to use it, and then shared with me this crazy idea:

Do with Enterprise Architecture what developers did on DevOps

OK, but what does this mean?

ArchOps explained

ArchOps explained

Let’s think out of the box… Ready? Go!

Imagine that there exists a solution to share an ArchiMate model. And that this solution doesn’t require you to lock in advance part of the model before you change it. Imagine that you are free to clone this model, to create branches and then to merge your work with your colleagues. Imagine that you can keep a local copy of the model, work offline and send your changes to the central model when your want (or can). Imagine that there is in fact no “central model” because you can choose to create multiple copies of this model and sync them. Imagine a toolset that allows you to create conflicting changes because it can then raise a warning, allowing your team to discuss the issues, and understand why and how they arose. Wouldn’t it be great? If your answer is yes, then you’ll be happy to know that this is what you can already do with GRAFICO and Git (the only drawback is that it requires you to have Git skills).

Now, imagine that these exact same features could be used with models saved in the Archi native file format but also the ArchiMate Open Exchange File Format designed by The Open Group. Imagine that all these features are packed in a single open-source solution that never requires you to know Git but still provides the powerful interoperability features. What you now have is a solution that can trigger some events when (part of) the model changes. What you can do from here is up to you, but what about:

  • generating a static HTML rendering of the model in order to share it,
  • exporting the model to another repository, such as CMDB,
  • automatically checking that no changes appear in the as-is/baseline branch that could affect a project branch (automatic gap analysis).

If you find it useful, then you have an idea of what ArchOps could be. But the most important is that this is not about tools, it’s about opening new opportunities for our EA work, defining new way of working.

A Boundaryless Information Flow

How to move on?

As Archi is open source, we can’t really provide a definite roadmap for this work, but the key point is that we’d really like to make all this happen in the near future. For this to happen, we are looking for passionate people that could sponsor our work and invest some time with us to discuss ideas in more details and beta-test our solution. I heard that some companies could help us but for the moment no one has really decided to do so. Do you want to be the first?

Jun 052016
 
 5th June 2016  Posted by at 11:56 am No Responses »

Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie and I have been emailing back and forth for some time with some positive ideas and we now agree on what amounts to an “Archi Philosophy”, a set of principles that guide our future development of Archi and associated services. But these principles have already been written about in detail in the book, Rework, so all I can really do is talk about key points that relate to Archi and quote relevant passages from the book that resonate with us. I want to expand upon these principles and where we see Archi going (a.k.a the “roadmap”) in future blog posts, but, for now, regard Rework as our manual of truth and guiding light.

In this post I want to talk about open source and some of these guiding principles.

Archi’s code has a liberal open source licence, the MIT licence. It means that anyone can take the code and build a commercial product based on it. You can build a commercial product from the code, Microsoft can build a commercial product from the code, and your great aunt Edna can build a commercial product from the code. Heck, even I can build a commercial product from the code. So, what’s to stop somebody else from hijacking Archi and making something commercial from it? Actually, nothing. And, in fact, we want this liberal licence to stay in place because many organisations and developers have already built some interesting things based on Archi’s code, and they use it in a commercial setting. Also, the MIT licence is compatible with other licences.

Here’s a relevant passage from Rework that summarises our view:

Decommoditize your product

If you’re successful, people will try to copy what you do. It’s just a fact of life. But there’s a great way to protect yourself from copycats: Make you part of your product or service. Inject what’s unique about the way you think into what you sell. Decommoditize your product. Make it something no one else can offer.

Look at Zappos.com, a billion-dollar online shoe retailer. A pair of sneakers from Zappos is the same as a pair from Foot Locker or any other retailer. But Zappos sets itself apart by injecting CEO Tony Hsieh’s obsession with customer service into everything it does.

It’s unlikely that somebody would sell a product that has the exact same functionality as Archi using the code but, even if they did, here’s the thing:

Make you part of your product or service.

You see, Archi is a way of doing things and this is what sets it apart. So let’s list some of the guiding principles that make my and Jean-Baptiste’s philosophy part of the product:

  • There will always be a free and open source version of Archi
  • Archi is agile, intelligent and lightweight
  • We believe in elegant and simple design
  • We do not ask you for your contact details (but please get in touch!)
  • We believe in “open”, in open standards and in open source, and are therefore open and transparent in what we create
  • We want to build services based on trust
  • We believe in sharing
  • We want to create new ways of doing things
  • We want to make Archi and its services fun

So, if somebody does take the code and tries to sell another product based on Archi, then good luck to them because they ain’t us!

But let’s be perfectly clear about one thing. When we say that “there will always be a free and open source version of Archi” this does not mean that we will necessarily work for free or that we might not develop some paid-for services that would support Archi in the future. ArchiMate 3.0 will be released on June 14th and it’s important that Archi implements it, both for itself, for its thousands of users, and for the sake of The Open Group’s ArchiMate Exchange Format. This work is not trivial and will take a lot of effort, but unfortunately I cannot do this unpaid as I like to eat and pay bills. So we are now seeking sources of funding that would support this development. We are also thinking about how we can generate some form of income that would help sustain Archi for future support and features. Jean-Baptiste and I have some great ideas for Archi, but first we need to implement ArchiMate 3.0. Let’s work together in bringing you some great tools with the Archi Philosophy.

Image courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie

Image courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie