archi-logo

What is wrong with this picture? (TM)

If you know ArchiMate, there’s a good chance that you know Gerben Wierda‘s post series “What is wrong with this picture?”. This blog post is both a tribute to his work and an attempt to explain the importance of why you should be aware of the difference between core relations and derived ones.

In his book Mastering ArchiMate, Gerben presents several beginner’s pitfalls and especially the (bad) use of derived relations. I can only recommend that you follow his advice, and I will explain why, but let’s start at the beginning…

Core vs derived relations

When reading the ArchiMate Specification you might notice that the relationship tables contain a lot more relationships than those described in the metamodel pictures (such as this one for the business layer). The latter are the “core” relationships. In a detailed ArchiMate model, you could just use only these ones. But in real life, you will certainly have to create some high level views hiding some elements and using derived relationships.

In general, ArchiMate tools implement all of the possible relationships based on the tables in the Appendix of the specification, but don’t tell you which kind of relation you are creating, core or derived, and this may lead to problems.

Infrastructure Service used by Data Object

Today I was working on a model for a new project. For this, I used our standard pattern for a database:

whatswrong-dbpattern

This pattern basically shows a shared server which hosts several databases. In order to be able to move one database from this shared server to another one in the future without having to reconfigure applications using it, each database is accessed though a dedicated DNS alias pointing to the real server name (for those who know Oracle, we assume the service name and the port will not change).

Following our pattern, I then added some additional elements from the application layer, notably a Data Object realized by an Artifact. As I am testing the Archi 3 Early Access Preview, I played with the new Magic Connector functionality and found the following possible relationship – Infrastructure Service used by Data Object…

whatswrong-usedby

Wait a minute! What does “Infrastructure Service used by Data Object” actually mean? In natural language it seems to be OK because, after all, my database is managed/presented through the “DB1 (Infrastructure Service)” and therefore relies on it, so I could use it. But let’s examine this situation more closely first.

The first question to ask is whether it is a core or derived relation. That’s the easy part, the Application-Infrastructure Alignment Metamodel clearly shows that it’s not (only Realization from Artifact to Data Object is permitted). So it turns that it must be a derived relation, and we need to find it.

In order to understand what this Used By relation means, let’s start at the endpoint – the Data Object. Only a few core relationships are defined – Realization from Artifact, and Access from both Application Function and Service. A Used By relationship can only be derived from relationships having a strength at least equal to Used by, so this excludes the Access relationship.

After some time checking the Infrastructure Layer Metamodel, I ended up with the following (derived relation in blue):

whatswrong-explanation

“DB1” used by “Shared DB server”? Not what I intended to show, and clearly false in my case (there’s nothing on my database server that make use of the DB service).

Conclusion

All this came about because I used a helpful and nice feature in Archi – the Magic Connector. This can really help you a lot and shows you all allowed relationships between concepts, but it doesn’t tell you which relationships make more sense in a given context. As it is, I know ArchiMate well enough to ask such questions, but what if I were new to ArchiMate? I would have kept the Used By relationship and never have understand its real meaning, a common beginner’s pitfall.

So what can we do? As an Architect, I can make sure that I really understand what I’m doing by learning (and Gerben’s book is perfect for that). As an Archi contributor, I can suggest to enhance the Magic Connector to show me whether it is proposing a derived relation or a core one. We could also envisage that Archi could warn me when I manually create relations or reveal their nature (as with the “Show Structural Chains” option). Adding such a feature would really help a lot of Architects master ArchiMate.

Just for fun, re-examine some of your models and take 5 minutes to see how many derived relations you use, and then check their exact meaning. Do you find some strange things?

archi-logo

Taking Archi Forward

I think most people in the world of Enterprise Architecture, and especially ArchiMate, are aware of Archi as an approachable and ubiquitous tool that not only provides an easy entrance into ArchiMate modelling, but also has just enough functionality to keep you happy in your modelling requirements. Many individuals and organisations start with Archi, intending to move onto a more expensive solution but stay. Perhaps for these users the price point is right, or perhaps Archi provides just enough functionality?

What we are hearing from our many thousands of users is that whilst they love the elegance and simplicity of Archi they would love to have model repository support, more advanced reporting, and more flexibility in the presentation of the ArchiMate diagrams.

We agree. And we intend to bring you these features.

Let’s consider Archi’s existing feature set as a starting point. Archi is relatively young, and therefore the feature set will grow and improve. Over the last year we have already introduced some exciting new features that have vastly improved Archi. Late last year we brought you the option of setting colour schemes so that you could use Archi right alongside Gerben Wierda’s fantastic ArchiMate learning resource, Mastering ArchiMate. In January, we released version 2.6 with some great improvements to the diagrams, including better line and fill colour options, and better connections. In March we kept up the pace and brought you version 2.7 with greatly improved support for exporting diagrams as images, as well as SVG format, a popular request from many of our users.

And don’t forget we brought you our great new website, redesigned in a modern, clean style. We’re still working on improvements to the site and are now setting up a framework to support featured blog posts and articles.

So where now?

Since my last blog post we have not stopped. As you might have seen, we’ve now made the necessary changes to allow Archi to be built on the next generation of the underlying framework – Eclipse 4. We are working on Archi 3.0. Being built on Eclipse 4 guarantees Archi’s future within a sustainable framework. Archi 3.0 will bring the option of pluggable look and feel application themes, export and import of model data in CSV format, bi-directional support for Archi’s famous Magic Connector, Find and Replace, and many more improvements. We think it’s going to be a fantastic release.

And the incredible thing is that we’ve delivered all of these exciting features and improvements to you over the last few years for free!

We’re big fans of open source and free tools, but we can only do so much for free. In order to sustain the development of Archi and other projects we need investment in resources, particularly financial resources.

Consider an organisation’s return on investment by using Archi. I invite each company, each training organisation, each consultant that has used Archi over some time to calculate the financial savings they have made by using Archi instead of a paid-for tool. Collectively, this amounts to huge savings. Clearly, this is a good thing. But, like the goose that laid the golden eggs, we need to keep Archi alive to keep the good thing going. And this requires the co-operation of all stakeholders who have a vested interest in the future of Archi – companies, organisations, architects, consultants, trainers, and of course the developer of Archi itself. We now need to pull together to move forward.

So, we are now exploring potential business models that can support and guarantee Archi’s continuing success and its future. At this stage, there are some potential options on the horizon.

More than just tooling, our users also need support and training in the use of TOGAF, ArchiMate, EA Modelling, and of course, Archi itself. Whilst we ourselves do not currently have the resources to deliver training and consultancy, we can recommend and work with potential partners to provide you the full package for your modelling and EA needs.

“Archi” the software is still growing, it is still relatively young. And “Archi” the brand is equally as strong, with a great reputation. Archi has been a disruptive and refreshing force in the EA world, with some of our users hailing it as a “game changer”. In the last 3 or 4 years we have shown what is possible by taking a light, agile, and intelligent approach to software development and delivery. Imagine what the next 3 or 4 years could bring with investment and collaboration with like-minded partners. As Steve Jobs once said, we are thinking about where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. Currently Archi is a cross-platform desktop solution used by many thousands of architects. The scale of its global reach and impact has been phenomenal. We want to bring you tools that go beyond the desktop, providing you the means to work with your models and data in the cloud, and on your mobile devices. Archi on the desktop is just the beginning.

So, what can you do to help? If you’re happy using Archi today for free, that’s fine. Keep on modelling and enjoy Archi! We love happy users. If you think you’ve benefited from Archi either personally or in the workplace, why not make a small donation? This would be a great help towards running costs. If you are a company that uses Archi for your EA modelling, or if you are a TOGAF/ArchiMate training organisation that uses Archi for your training, you might consider investing in the tool that brings value to your organisation.

We think we can build on Archi’s great reputation to bring you better and inexpensive tools, complementary services, and advice and guidance to make your organisation more profitable and help you achieve your goals. With your help we can make it happen.

archi-logo

The Year of the Horse

It’s the Chinese Year of the Horse, and it seems that Archi is already racing ahead in the download stakes. Archi 2.6 was released exactly 4 weeks ago on January 9th and I’m happy to report that the rate of downloads has doubled. In that 4 week period Archi has been downloaded over 2,000 times. This figure represents a subset of the actual visitors to the Archi website. In the same 4 week period there were over 5,000 visits, 3,500 unique visitors and 13,000 page views. These are incredible figures considering that I only very recently launched this website.

It’s interesting to study the website data provided by Google Analytics. Most visitors to this site have been from Europe, with the Netherlands being the front runner followed closely by the UK, and then the US. We can also see from the data who are the strong favourites, and who are the up and coming runners. France, Germany, and Belgium lead the way from Europe, while there has been increased interest from Russia, China, and India – all areas for growth and potential new markets. I shall be analysing this data more closely in the coming weeks.

horse

But numbers are just part of the picture. It’s also interesting to see how popular Archi has become as the tool of choice for delivering ArchiMate training by some commercial training organisations. I would like to think that this is because of Archi’s ease of use and elegant simplicity, but it may also be because Archi is free.

My immediate concern is to strengthen the Archi and ArchiMate community by adding new resources to the website. You may have already noticed the “coming soon” “Tips and Tricks” teaser on the Resources page. I propose to create a hub to share Archi models and modelling patterns, with perhaps a means to rate and comment on these, and to serve as a place to discuss ArchiMate best practices. If you have any suggestions as to how you think this would be best implemented please let me know.

Clearly, Archi is being used by many architects, trainers, and EA students throughout the world (a recent download came from Mongolia). This popularity is driving the number of feature requests we are receiving, particularly in relation to multi-user support. I’m pleased to say that there has been a great deal of renewed interest from developers. As I mentioned before, Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie from France is leading the way exploring possibilities for sharing and merging models. My thanks are due to him for his encouragement and getting the message out. Judging by some comments on the Archi forums and elsewhere we may be seeing the beginnings of an Archi developer community. With more people contributing, the possibilities for Archi increase.

Fulfilling the meaning of my name, I will try to continue in my role as the steward, groom, or ostler of Archi. Thanks for your continuing support.

archi-logo

An Update

2013 has proven to be a productive year for all things Archi, and also personally. It also turned out to be a transitional year in many ways. Archi 2.4 was released in early December 2012 and this was the last release on the old website. Archi continued throughout 2013 to be downloaded at an astonishing frequency – around 1000 downloads a month – by all manner of enterprise architects, consultants, students, training organisations and many others. I wrote about the genesis of Archi and its success on my personal WordPress blog. I think it makes for interesting reading.

archi-sketch

After a break over the summer to recharge and re-align my chakras, I returned to Archi to bring things up to date. In September I created a new home for Archi – this website. In fact you might notice that this website has been redesigned again as from today. Then in November I released Archi 2.4.1, a maintenance release containing some work that I had accumulated throughout the year, and an important bug fix. You can read about the background behind this bug fix on my personal WordPress blog. Also included in Archi 2.4.1 was the results of some collaboration with Gerben Wierda, author of Mastering ArchiMate, to allow you to use the colour scheme for ArchiMate elements that Gerben uses in his book.

I didn’t rest on my laurels, and later in November I released Archi 2.5 which represents the first stage in a general makeover for Archi. This release gave Archi a new icon, launch screen and a default flat look (element shadows are optional) to tie in with the new look of this website and the general trend in UI design today (particularly obvious in Apple’s iOS 7).

Since then I’ve done some more work on Archi in line with the UI makeover theme for the next release – version 2.6, coming soon. I’ve been helped in this work by Jean-Baptiste Sarrodie, also known as Jaiguru. You may remember that Jean-Baptiste already contributed last year with his implementation of “orthogonal anchor points” in Archi 2.4. He is now very kindly making some important contributions to the next version of Archi 2.6, including line colours for elements, connection bend-points snap to grid, curved bend-points, and more. Expect to see some great UI improvements in this next version of Archi. Now that Jean-Baptiste is contributing towards development work, we can be assured of an interesting future for Archi.

ArchiMate 2.1 was released by the Open Group earlier this month. This is a maintenance release and addresses many issues reported in the 2.0 specification. We have made the changes necessary to Archi, and these will also be included in the next release. And talking of the Open Group, I’ve also been very busy working with various parties on the Open Group’s proposed ArchiMate exchange format. Hopefully this will allow all ArchiMate tool vendors to exchange ArchiMate models in an open format.

2013 has been an interesting year for Archi, as it transitions to a new future. 2014 promises to be even more interesting.