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This chapter is from the book

The Connoisseur's Guide to Eating Elephants

This chapter set out to define the kinds of things the Elephant Eater must do, the kinds of problems it needs to deal with, and the kinds of environments with which it must cope. We've covered a lot of ground, so it's worth recapping the key requirements that we have established—a connoisseur's guide to eating elephants.

The Elephant Eater machine must recognize that the environment imposes many more constraints beyond functional and nonfunctional requirements. We rarely work on Greenfield sites anymore; the elephant-eating machine must be at home on the most complex Brownfield sites—the kind of Brownfield sites that have had a lot of IT complexity built up layer on layer over many years.

The Elephant Eater must also address the lack of transparency that is inherent within our most complex projects. This will enable us to x-ray our elephant to see the heart of the problem. To achieve this transparent understanding, the Elephant Eater must acknowledge the fundamental human limitation of the View and enable us to break down the problem into smaller chunks.

However, we suspect that a one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining Views is doomed to failure. A high-level business process View will always look very different than a detailed data definition. Therefore, an elephant-eating machine that relies on a single tool for all users is pretty impractical.

In addition, we now know that, despite the best efforts of architects to keep them insulated and isolated via abstractions and enterprise architectures, many of these Views are interlinked. Therefore, the only way to understand the problem properly is to make the interconnections between Views explicit and try to make them unambiguous. We should also note, however, that establishing a consolidated picture of all these Views needs to be a process of cooperation and communication—one View cannot overwrite another one, and ambiguity must be dealt with within its processing. We also know that the View should cover the entire solution (business, application, and infrastructure).

By using the formal View and VITA approach introduced in Part I, "Introducing Brownfield," it should be possible to see how the Elephant Eater proposed can address these requirements. The following facets are an intrinsic part of Brownfield development.

Our Brownfield abstractions—and, therefore, architectures—will be a good fit for the problem: Those decisions will be made based on detailed information fed in via a site survey instead of vague generalization. This adopts an engineer's approach to the solution instead of the artisan's heuristics and intuition.

We will be able to preempt the ripple effect, often understanding which requirements are in conflict or at least knowing the horrors hiding behind the constraints. Therefore, the requirements can be cost-effectively refined instead of the abstractions of the solution or its code. Resolving these problems early will have significant economic benefit.

The solution will become easier to create due to a deeper understanding of the problem. A precise and unambiguous specification will enable the use of delivery accelerators such as these:

  • Global delivery and centers of excellence
  • Code generation via Model Driven Development and Pattern Driven Engineering because the precise specification can be used to parameterize the generation processes
  • Iterative delivery as possible strategies for appropriate business and IT segmentation of the problem become clearer

Therefore, the Brownfield approach conceptually solves many of the problems presented in this chapter and previous chapters, avoiding the early, unreliable, and imprecise abstractions and decompositions of existing approaches. In the remaining chapters, we examine how Brownfield evolved and how it can be deployed on large-scale IT projects.

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