Red Hat Architecture Framework : structure for open source consulting projects

From a Red Hat Consulting Europe point-of-view, 2013 finished with a flourish, with significant interest from our customers and partners in cloud and middleware technologies, including OpenStack, CloiudForms, OpenShift, Fuse and BRMS. The Architect team has worked on around 15 different projects since the summer from Oslo to Madrid, via Warrington [1]. As well as now offering specialist technical expertise, risk-reduction and an insight to the next generation of enterprise technology, we’ve also started the implementation of the Red Hat Architecture Framework (RHAF).

Since Red Hat Consulting started, we’ve tended to take a light touch approach for specific architectural methodologies and procedures. This is partly because we’ve not found one that’s not too obtrusive and that our customers use a wide range of approaches for their projects. We’ve learned a lot since 2000, and seen good and bad practices.

What has become clear is that:

  • some approaches are too prescriptive and too closely coupled to closed source solutions and technology
  • that the customers and organisations we work with have their own procedures and methods for software development and management

Since 2008 and the arrival of viable virtualization technologies for the data center, we have done a lot of work with Standard Operating Environments (SOEs), which has helped people keep up with the pace of deployment and increased complexity of managing very agile environments. Systems are now updated on-the-fly in production and whole processes tends to certified, rather an single instance of this process being used.

We’ve therefore been looking for a suitable methods to develop into the Red Hat Architectural Framework. We’ve looked at TOGAF and more formal, project related methods before, but the overhead for us and our customers is too great, both in terms of formal processes, but also the restrictions it puts on open source software and the way it is developed.

The EMEA Architects team has become increasingly aware of SEMAT,
Software Engineering Method and Theory , and the emerging Red Hat
Architectural Framework, is it applied to an open source consulting practice.

What RHAF gives us:

  • the ability to have a loosely coupled framework, that can provide governance and navigation through any of our projects (we have something like 200-300 projects running at any time in Europe)
  • it fits in with other already established approaches in Red Hat Consulting (like Agile and our Project Management regime)
  • it’s easily understandable and has a short, not-too-steep learning curve for people starting out with it
  • it can be used by the customer as part of a wider project, or fit in with their existing systems.

The SEMAT Kernel is a extensible system, and RHAF is very much our application of it. The initial aims with RHAF is to provide structure to some of our more ad-hoc engagements, like proof-of-concepts, though already hare using the approach with our Architect Workshops and SOE projects.

I’d like to think, that we’ve found an approach for architecting and delivering projects that fits well with open source software, Red Hat’s enterprise value proposition and that only adds to the customer experience with leading edge technology. More to come on RHAF and they’ll be further announcements during 2014.

[1] An important town in the north-west of the UK, known for its rugby
league team among other things.

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