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In the last decade, many large organizations have developed numerous information systems but often times with very little coordination. As a result, information systems can be redundant and cannot interoperate, and data is repetitive and inconsistent (stove-piped information systems). In fact, one of the greatest challenges facing large organizations, such as the US federal government, is the failure of information systems to interoperate and effectively share business-critical data. Although it isn't easy, you can establish a unified enterprise architecture (EA), align projects with that enterprise architecture, and carefully plan and control your investments. I first discuss the enterprise architecture approach to an e-authentication project and then concentrate on some technical considerations.
First, consider how to align the e-authentication project to business objectives within an enterprise architecture. As enterprise architecture is a relatively new topic, let's discuss what an enterprise is and what it involves. According to the US Department of the Treasury's Treasury Enterprise Architecture Framework (TEAF) definition, an enterprise is an organization supporting a defined business scope and mission (see Resources). An enterprise comprises interdependent resources that should coordinate their functions and share information in support of a common mission. Enterprise architecture includes a strategic information asset base, which defines the business, information necessary to operate the business, technologies necessary to support the information systems, and the transitional processes necessary for implementing new technologies in response to changing business needs.
Enterprise architecture involves a top-down, business strategic-driven process that coordinates the development of a business architecture, an information architecture, and a technology architecture that support individual applications as well as the entire enterprise application portfolio. It represents the holistic view of the enterprise's key business, information, application, and technology strategies and their impact on business functions and processes. Since enterprise architecture development itself can be a very lengthy process, I select a small piece of an enterprise architecture closely related to application authentication for further discussion. The table below represents an enterprise architecture from 10,000-foot level. Let's use this as the starting point to talk about unification strategies.
The slice of enterprise architecture for e-authentication
An enterprise architecture needs a detailed sequencing plan to evolve the baseline architecture to the target architecture. The plan's major elements include program/business improvement IT projects and major infrastructure and technology upgrades. The IT projects include the e-authentication project and all other projects that use the e-authentication service. The best strategy for migration involves service-oriented architecture (SOA): e-authentication will provide authentication service to all other applications that require authentication. The goal is to build a service that offers value and creates standard profiles in the enterprise architecture repository to avoid redundant development efforts.