Solution architecture is a practice of defining and describing an architecture of a system delivered in context of a specific solution and as such it may encompass description of an entire system or only its specific parts. Definition of a solution architecture is typically led by a solutions architect.
There are many definitions of "solution architecture" in the industry but no official definition exists yet. The Open Group (2009) defined solution architecture as:
Most definitions agree that the distinguishing characteristic of a solution architecture is that its context is a specific solution or deliverable as opposed to an entire enterprise or a segment of an enterprise. Furthermore, definitions put emphasis on the very specific nature of solution architecture and on its alignment with higher-level principles and specifications.
According to Forrester Research, solution architecture is one of the key methods, by which enterprise architecture delivers value to the organization. Solution architecture activities take place during solution ideation, solution design, and solution implementation. During ideation, solution architecture establishes the complete business context for the solution and defines the vision and requirements for the solution. During design, solution architecture elaborates potential options, which may include RFIs, RFPs or prototype development. It selects the most optimal option and develops the roadmap for the selected solution. During implementation, solution architecture communicates the architecture to the stakeholders, and guides the implementation team.
The relationship between enterprise architecture and solution architecture is generally well understood. According to the 2013 paper published by the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations, solution architecture includes business architecture, information architecture, application architecture, and technology architecture operating at a tactical level and focusing on the scope and span of a selected business problem. In contrast, enterprise architecture, which also includes the aforementioned four types of architecture, operates at the strategic level and its scope and span is the enterprise rather than a specific business problem. Consequently, enterprise architecture provides strategic direction and guidance to solution architecture.
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