An Interview with Craig Ashapa

What did you like about the project's implementation?
The NT architecture team designed the system's architecture independently of applications that needed to run on it. In other words, the domain and security architecture and the tools for systems management were independent of any applications. As a result, MCI was able to replace hundreds of character-based terminals with NT workstations in a matter of days. In addition, once the team deployed the basic NT and domain structure, it completed the remaining system configurations with SMS, eliminating countless hours of sneakernet installations.

What didn't you like about the project's implementation?
Getting people and teams to think globally instead of locally. Systems architecture from an enterprise perspective is a different beast from designing single-site architecture. With NT, you can get from point A to point B by taking many different routes. The difficult part is realizing and accepting that the shortest route between the two points might not be the appropriate choice when you're designing enterprise architecture. Because each call center is an independent entity from the other centers, communicating the benefits of enterprisewide manageability and standardization is extremely challenging.

What would you have done differently on the project?
I would have given the team additional resources, such as more employees and time. With additional resources, the team could have better focused on operations staff training and architecture documentation. I'm a big advocate of documentation, so now the team is going back and documenting everything.

What advice can you give your peers?
Spend time on the basics­then add the bells and whistles. Split the architecture into functional components, such as domain structure and security, systems management, and backup. Ensure that each function is in sync with the overall system architecture. Be objective, and don't allow passion to enter into the mix. And don't be afraid to swallow your pride and make changes to your architecture once it's deployed.

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