Jeff Schneider has a blog post entitled You're so Enterprise... which is meant to be a response to a post I wrote entitled My Website is Bigger Than Your Enterprise. Since he neither linked to my post nor did he mention my full name, it's actually a coincidence I ever found his post. Anyway, he writes

In regard to the comment that Dare had made, "If you are building distributed applications for your business, you really need to ask yourself what is so complex about the problems that you have to solve that makes it require more complex solutions than those that are working on a global scale on the World Wide Web today." I tried to have a conversation with several architects on this subject and we immediately ran into a problem. We were trying to compare and contrast a typical enterprise application with one like Microsoft Live. Not knowing the MS Live architecture we attempted to 'best guess' what it might look like:

  • An advanced presentation layer, probably with an advance portal mechanism
  • Some kind of mechanism to facilitate internationalization
  • A highly scalable 'logic layer'
  • A responsive data store (cached, but probably not transactional)
  • A traditional row of web servers / maybe Akamai thing thrown in
  • Some sort of user authentication / access control mechanism
  • A load balancing mechanism
  • Some kind of federated token mechanism to other MS properties
  • An outward facing API
  • Some information was syndicated via RSS
  • The bulk of the code was done is some OO language like Java or C#
  • Modularity and encapsulation was encouraged; loose coupling when appropriate
  • Some kind of systems management and monitoring
  • Assuming that we are capturing any sensitive information, an on the wire encryption mechanism
  • We guessed that many of the technologies that the team used were dictated to them: Let's just say they didn't use Java and BEA AquaLogic.
  • We also guessed that some of the typical stuff didn't make their requirements list (regulatory & compliance issues, interfacing with CICS, TPF, etc., interfacing with batch systems, interfacing with CORBA or DCE, hot swapping business rules, guaranteed SLA's, ability to monitor state of a business process, etc.)
At the end of the day - we were scratching our heads. We DON'T know the MS Live architecture - but we've got a pretty good guess on what it looks like - and ya know what? According to our mocked up version, it looked like all of our 'Enterprise Crap'.

So, in response to Dare's question of what is so much more complex about 'enterprise' over 'web', our response was "not much, the usual compliance and legacy stuff". However, we now pose a new question to Dare:
What is so much more simple about your architecture than ours?

Actually, a lot of the stuff he talks about with regards to SLAs, monitoring business processes and regulatory issues are all things we face as part of building Windows Live. However it seems Jeff missed my point. The point is that folks building systems in places like Yahoo, Amazon and Windows Live are building systems that have to solve problems that are at the minimum just as complex as those of your average medium sized to large scale business. From his post, Jeff seems to agree with this core assertion. Yet people at these companies are embracing approaches such as RESTful web services and using scripting languages which are both often dissed as not being enterprise by complexity enterprise architects.

Just because a problem seems complex doesn't mean it needs a complex technology to solve it. For example, at its core RSS solves the same problem as WS-Eventing. I can describe all sorts of scenarios where RSS falls down and WS-Eventing does not. However RSS is good enough for a large number of scenarios for a smidgeon of the complexity cost of WS-Eventing. Then there are other examples where you have complex technologies like WS-ReliableMessaging that add complexity to the mix but often don't solve the real problems facing large scale services today. See my post More on Pragmatism and Web Services for my issues with WS-ReliableMessaging.  

My point remains the same. Complex problems do not necessarily translate to requiring complex solutions.

Question everything.