Software architect vs enterprise architect

In many companies architects (are perceived to) operate at a high level of abstraction — high-level system modules/interfaces, high-level concepts, high-level decisions. Their audiences include non-technical users, who speak business language. I guess some architects absolutely avoid low-level tech jargon almost like profanity — it’s all about image of an architect. The wrong word on the wrong occasion would creates a permanent bad impression.

To many people, “architecture” implies some network layer, networking protocol, network nodes. These architects might feel less than comfortable if their system has just one machine or just one jvm instance [1], without messaging, database, remote-procedure-call, web service, distributed caching, IPC, shared memory, shared data format (like XML) or communication protocol.

In contrast, software architects can be extremely low-level, too. Their audience are developers. (Examples below include a lot of c/c++…)

– Consider the creator of STL — an architect?
– connectivity engine team lead?
– FIX engine architect?
– Any low-latency trading engine architect?
– Creator of perl/python/boost regex engines?
– All boost libraries I know are low-level. Are the authors architects?
– Tomcat is a single-jvm system. Authors qualify as architects?
– Hibernate isn’t a big system with big modules.  so the authors are low-level architects?
– JNI component designers — single-VM
– java GC innovators
– Creators of any reusable component like a jar, a dll — Just a pluggable module — not even a standalone “server”. Do they qualify as architects?
– The pluggable look-and-feel framework in Swing is designed by someone — an architect?
– spring framework, before all the add-on modules were added
– the tpc/ip/udp software stack was designed by some architect, but that person probably worked mostly on 1 machine, occasionally on 2 machines for testing only.
– GCC creator
– apache creator
– mediawiki creator
– creators of the dotnet CLR and the crown-jewel of Sun, the JVM.

I feel majority of the really important software [2] used in the world today were created by truly powerful developers who focused on a single module in a single system, without messaging, database, remote-procedure-call, web service, distributed caching, shared data format (like XML) or communication protocol.

Now I think there’s a difference between software architect vs enterprise system architect (ESA). To the software/internet industry, the software architect adds more value, whereas to a non-tech company (like finance/ telecom/logistics…), the ESA is the master mind.

I feel some ESA may need to solve performance problems but not implementation/debugging problems.

ESA often covers network/hardware configuration and design too. Security is often part of the “network piece”. If the database is small, then the ESA often covers that too. Tunin/optimization is cross-discipline and touches all the pieces, but in most of my enterprise systems, hardware/network tuning tends to require fewer specialists than DB or application (including MOM and cache). Therefore, ESA sometimes becomes the optimization lead.

(I recently encountered some concepts, methodologies and paradigms at architect level but not sure where to place them — design patterns, TDD/BDD, closures/lambda, meta-programming, functional programming, aspect-oriented… and other programming paradigms —

[2] By the way, these so-called “really important” software products are predominantly in C.
[1] Many of the items listed can add real value in a single process or multiple


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