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How to Architect For Web 2.0

Three Postulates and Ten Must-Dos

Web 2.0 Magazine on Ulitzer

Web 2.0 may not have a clear-cut definition but irrespective of which way you look at it (there are three different ways of looking at Web 2.0), it is about the behavior of complex system, it is about collective intelligence and it is about emergence.

The fundamental principles governing such systems are that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts – the behavior of the system cannot be derived or understood by analyzing individual elements.

Traditional approach to architecting and problem solving is to…

  • Look at the problem as a whole
  • Break it down to multiple sub-problems
  • Solve each sub problem separately
  • Put individual solutions together
  • Expect the whole problem to be resolved

This approach does not work for complex systems

and

Web 2.0 always deals with complex systems

So when dealing with such systems, as an architect, you need to modify your approach.

Postulate [1] – Any Web 2.0 success will always be unexpected

If you look at all the big web 2.0 success you will find that all of them (Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter …) have defied conventional wisdom. The chances are high that your web 2.0 success will happen in an unexpected way.

Must-Do #1 – Let the Architecture Evolve

It is impossible to design for the unexpected. Only thing you can do is to move forward incrementally – always adjusting your architecture to the new reality – paying your technical debts regularly.

Must-Do #2 – Adopt Agile Methodology

Agile methodology intimately connected to emergence – if you are not into agile don’t even come near web 2.0.

Must-Do #3 – Opt for Loose Coupling and Simplicity of Interface

Only loosely coupled system can quickly evolve – only simple interfaces get widely used.

Must-Do #4 – Implement Bottom-Up

The trick is to identify small successes – nurture them – adapt your system to help them proliferate.

Must-Do #5 – Resist Temptation to Control

We have the inherent urge to control event which does not go according to our plan – but for web 2.0, such events may be the seeds of success.

Postulate [2] – Web 2.0 – more often than not – is about customer behavior

Chances are high that as an architect you would want to distance yourself from selling & marketing. Unfortunately, web 2.0 is intimately connected with customer (existing & prospective) behavior – and the money for such project is likely to come out of marketing budget.

Must-Do #6 – Think Customer Centric

There is clear evidence that improving customer experience can improve customer loyalty – therefore you need to tune the architecture keeping the customer at the centre (not the organization).

Must-Do #7 – Learn Marketing Terminology

Marketers have spent their whole carrier trying to understand customer behavior – to architect for web 2.0, not only do you need to understand how traditional marketing works – you also need to understand and speak marketing language.

Postulate [3] – Underlying technologies of Web 2.0 are changing fast

There always will be hype around new technologies – not all of them will live up to that hype. However, once in a while, a new technology comes in and creates a paradigm shift in how and what we do. When such a thing happens, we call it an Inflection Point – there is a good chance that we are just about to reach one.

Must-Do #8 – Design for Multiple Channels

Customers expect logically consistent (not necessarily identical) experience across multiple channels. BTW – Multi-channel is not just smart phone, many other types of devices and appliances are evolving (have you looked at Sixth Sense?). In fact even web is no longer a single channel – you need to look separately at Aggregators, Social Networking Sites, Micro Blogging…

Must-Do #9 – Understand Cloud – Especially Google App Engine

In one sense, cloud is just an extension of virtualized hosting solution but 3 distinct cloud strategies are in vogue. However, do look at Google App Engine – though it is still work in progress – it has the potential of altering the economics of IT.

Must-Do #10 – Think Beyond RDBMS

Have you heard of the No SQL movement? Check it out – have a look at Big Table.

Brain cells number in the billions but the interconnections between them are in trillions. Our intelligence – the collective intelligence of any complex system is derived from the number and quality of interconnections. So, architecting for interconnections is the key to success!

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
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