Why a reference architecture is important for you

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In one of my previous blog entries, I wrote about the latest version of the IBM Cloud Computing Reference Architecture (CCRA). However, in any cloud project, or any IT project for that matter, the use of a reference architecture is good. In this blog post, I will explain why.


What is a reference architecture?

IBM Rational Unified Process (RUP) defines a reference architecture as follows:

[A reference architecture] is, in essence, a predefined architectural pattern, or set of patterns, possibly partially or completely instantiated, designed, and proven for use in particular business and technical contexts, together with supporting artifacts to enable their use. Often, these artifacts are harvested from previous projects.

From this, we can see that a reference architecture is a very powerful tool that can help you achieve your goal in a fast manner with the least possible risk.

How does it relate to the cloud?

In any cloud project, a sound architecture is needed in order to ensure that the cloud solution designed fulfills the need. This is important regardless of whether the solution is a private, public or hybrid cloud.

Both large IT vendors and other types of organizations have proposed reference architectures for cloud computing. The IBM CCRA is one of these. Organizations such as The Open Group have started initiatives to standardize a reference architecture for cloud computing. Portions of the CCRA have been submitted to this standardization effort.

If you are planning to start a cloud project, I would advise you to look at one of these reference architectures, be it one of the general reference architectures such as the IBM CCRA (which is vendor agnostic) or one of the product-specific reference architectures, if the solution you are implementing depends solely on this product.

By using a reference architecture, you will start off with a sound “blueprint” for your cloud. If you engage a consulting organization with a proven track record, such as IBM, you will also gain access to the methodology that the organization has in place. This will, in the long run, not only reduce the risk related to your project but will probably also provide a faster time to market for your solution and improve overall user satisfaction.


The use of a reference architecture will not only help you design and implement a solid cloud solution, but it also will allow you to build on the experiences of others. A reference architecture should be usable not only in cloud projects but in all IT projects (and for that matter, non-IT projects as well).

What is your experience with the use of a reference architecture? Has it helped in your projects? Please leave a comment below.

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