Architects: Why Do We Need Them?!


Terry Cheng

March 2008

Summary: Among other questions that the author of this article asks—and answers—is: Why do we need architects? (3 printed pages)


Why Do We Need Them Now?
What Do They Do?
How Do They Add Value?
Who Is Qualified to Become One?


The architects with Microsoft Architectural Focus play a very important role in the IT success of enterprises. How to identify the right candidates and train them well can be critical topics in enterprises today.

A Windows engineer can easily load Windows Vista clients, any Microsoft Windows Server 2003 servers, and a Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 or cluster service, and put them into production—without architects. A database professional follows the instructions in the Microsoft SQL Server Administrator's Guide to install SQL Server servers, and puts them into production—without architects. A group of Web application developers can write a bunch of cool applications and put them into production—without architects. IT professionals in small- and medium-size organizations can make critical decisions on how to build servers, create databases, and write applications—all without even thinking about architects.

Currently, thousands of production servers run in the data centers of enterprises—without architects. So, why do we need architects now? What do they do? How do they add value? And who is qualified to become an architect?

Why Do We Need Them Now?

The complexity of technologies and products that Microsoft offers today demands the guidance and design expertise of knowledgeable and experienced IT professionals within the camp of Microsoft fans.

Infrastructure, data, and applications are three critical components of all data centers to keep business alive and running. Integration of infrastructure, application development, and database and management tools requires the skills and leadership beyond those of engineers and developers. Architects are needed beside the product road maps, so IT professionals or system engineers can build the infrastructure, and developers or software engineers can focus on building and developing applications.

In September 2007, Microsoft introduced an article titled "Top 7 Ways to Light Up Your Apps on Windows Server 2008" that explained best why Microsoft architects are helping all types of architects of customers build Microsoft architecture, for customers to take full advantage of Microsoft technologies and products to enable customer business.

Yes, architects with Microsoft-focused architecture are needed more than ever. Organizations must realize the need for architects, their roles, and responsibilities in the process, as well as recognize their value first before they recruit architects to help build the future.

What Do They Do?

There are several kinds of architects in an enterprise: Enterprise Architects, Infrastructure Architects, Software Architects, and Line-of-Business Architects.

The efforts of enterprise architects pan out to ensure that they cover architecture from an enterprise perspective, cross-organizationally, and across architectural domains such as business, application, infrastructure, and data. Enterprise architects lead infrastructure architects, software architects, and line-of-business (LOB) architects to plan and build the blueprint of Microsoft-focused architecture for the enterprise.

Infrastructure architects build infrastructure architectures as presented by enterprises architects, to implement and maintain reliable infrastructure services for business.

Software architects usually are the experienced developers who are able to help perform strategic thinking from a software-development perspective; deal with systems, boundaries, interfaces, and interactions; explain high-level design choices; and communicate with stakeholders.

The LOB architects are the links between the needs of the LOBs and those of the developers. They often build the solutions for the business.

How Do They Add Value?

Each kind of architect can provide value through the particular contribution to business and business processes. Each serves as the bridge between business, engineers, and developers.

Architects must be able to contribute to add value to the business and IT processes.

Who Is Qualified to Become One?

The professional qualifications of an architect include education, knowledge, and experience in IT, and—more importantly—an understanding of Microsoft technologies, tools, and intentions. Most importantly, architects understand the business and its processes.

Microsoft architect certification is relatively new and still on the developmental journey. The Microsoft Certified Architect Program requires in-depth training, exams, and the passing of a rigorous Review Board interview that is conducted by Microsoft experts and Microsoft Certified Architects. It is certainly worth the effort to become an architect.

About the author

Terry Cheng is an operating-system engineer in Wells Fargo Bank's Technology Information Group. Born and raised in Taiwan, he has lived in the United States for over 20 years. Terry was recruited by Wells Fargo (then Norwest Bank) in 1999 to Minneapolis, MN. He and his family moved from Seattle, WA, to Plymouth in 2000.

Terry was appointed to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans by Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty. He has been serving as the chair for the Plymouth Advisory Committee on Transit for four years. Terry also serves as a board member for the Downtown YMCA, working on diversity initiatives and community relations. He was recognized numerous times as a diversity champion for his passion, energy, and action with mentor programs, communications, minority leadership development programs, and a community ambassador's initiative.

As a member of the Wells Fargo Minnesota Diversity Council, Terry tirelessly contributes his vision and action on diversity education, professional growth, and mentoring. Automation and virtualization are his passions.

With David Watts, Roland Mueller, and Brian Higbee, Terry is coauthor of "Deployment Using Altiris on IBM System x and BladeCenter Servers."


This article was published in Skyscrapr, an online resource provided by Microsoft. To learn more about architecture and the architectural perspective, please visit