Architectural Tenets- The Structural Underpinnings of IT Project and Custom Software Solutions

By Prasanna Adhikari, CEO & Founder, ZurelSoft

Nike has built its web services using three main architectural tenets as an underlying structure, I learned at the AWS Summit in San Francisco on April 9. And those tenets are equally applicable to online services managed by all CIOs and CTOs. Wilf Russell, Nike’s VP of Consumer Digital Technology Development Technology, was a guest speaker during the summit’s keynote event. During his talk, Wilf discussed the architectural tenets that provide Nike with a structure to overcome some of its underlying IT challenges. Called “indifferences” by Wilf’s team, these tenets serve as guiding principles for Nike as it develops its online services.

Disaster Indifference
As Wilf said, “Disasters, both large and small, should not disrupt our business.” For Nike, regardless of type and size of a disaster, its IT architecture needs to be able to manage and support uninterrupted operation during and after the disaster. Of course, this need is not unique to Nike. It is probably a table stake for every large organization and in the mind of every CIO out there. Wilf’s team achieves this indifference by creating fault ­tolerant designs that react to failures and unplanned maintenance, supported by highly replicated data architecture on AWS infrastructure that cross multi­zones and regions.

Change Indifference
Nike needs to be able to make changes anytime without affecting customers. Changes range from new feature updates to ongoing maintenance. Once again, this is not a unique problem. As the saying goes, chance is the only constant, and this is more so with IT than anything else. This is something that every CTO and CIO has to grapple with. Nike achieves this indifference by using decoupled architecture and a very robust and highly flexible API layer, by means of a continuous delivery model and blue/green deployment on AWS’s on­demand infrastructure. Driving these methods is the strong DevOps culture within the organization.

Load Indifference
According to Wilf, it is not unusual for Nike’s website to experience a drastic increase in traffic after major product launches. Nike needs to be able to handle such a surge in traffic, often several orders of magnitude greater than normal traffic. And it needs to do that without disrupting its services or impacting revenue. Although other companies may not have the same order of variability as Nike does, it is a problem all CIOs and CTOs face and must be able to address. In today’s digital economy, it would be foolhardy for a business to say that it does not have this problem. Nike manages this variability by making use of microservice architecture that can scale independently based on the load, NoSQL storage that can expand without downtime, and AWS’s auto­scaling and on­demand infrastructure.

What Does That Mean for the Rest of Us?
It may be no surprise that a large organization like Nike uses these architectural tenets as an underlying structure to build its web services. What is important to note is that nothing that Nike does to achieve this is beyond the reach of smaller organizations with limited resources. Therefore, these architectural tenets can be and should be the structural underpinnings of every IT project and custom software solutions.


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