Hello architects! Welcome to Microsoft’s new architecture site! I’m Barry Briggs, Chief Enterprise Architect in Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism group, and I’ll be hosting the site as well as contributing to and moderating this blog – all dedicated to you, the IT architect.

Why an architecture site? Why an architecture blog?

Well, you could certainly argue it’s long overdue, and I wouldn’t argue with you.  But I would also argue that it’s terribly important now.

Why? Suffice it to say I’ve been in the software industry some thirty years now, and while our industry is constant only in its change, the rate of change has rarely been greater than it is today.

Listen to what one enterprise architect said recently: “Our end users and our customers demand we provide them with real-time, 24x7 response, and our business partners rely on us for accurate financial reporting, CRM, human resources management, business intelligence – and so on. At the same time the underlying technology is rapidly evolving: in-memory and column-oriented databases, NoSQL data sources, increased bandwidth requirements for large data sets, video-on-demand, security architectures that protect our IP in world of nation-state threats. And then there are the truly revolutionary technologies that will change everything: cloud, devices, Big Data and machine learning, and a workplace made interactive by social computing. What’s an architect to do? What should I do first?”

The answer is, of course, that competitive pressures will drive you to address all of them. That’s right – all of them. (By the way, in case you’re wondering who the architect was who said those words above, it was me.) Never before has the role of architect been as crucial to a company’s success as it is now. In the old days, of course, a business unit might simply ask IT to create or buy a new application, and, after some code, or some procurement, acceptance testing, data center space allocation, and so on, there would be a new member of the IT portfolio.

But now, when considering new functionality, you must consider whether it is really cost-effective to add another on-premise application. You must consider whether it can handle not just today’s data load, but orders of magnitude more data tomorrow and the next day as you are able to collect it. Does it allow for end-user “likes” and can you analyze them to find out what’s working and what’s not? Will it perform well as it integrates with systems in the cloud and perhaps in partners’ data centers?

Many of the choices that architects make today are platform choices – private or public cloud, HTML5 or application, JavaScript or Ruby or PHP – that IT departments will have to live with for many years to come.

Helping you with those choices – that’s the purpose of this blog, and of this site.

Why me, you might ask? Why am I qualified to discourse on such weighty topics? Well, for the past five years I served as Chief Architect and CTO for Microsoft’s own internal IT team consisting of around 4,000 dedicated employees and a few thousand applications. I’ve witnessed first-hand what it takes to create an IT cloud strategy, to social-enable applications, to drive insights from Big Data and to make IT capabilities work on mobile devices – and by the way, not just ours but iPhones and iPads and Android phones as well. We know it’s a diverse world, and we live it too.

But it won’t be just me. I’ll have  guest interviews with thought leaders from around Microsoft, and from industry luminaries as well.

Even more importantly, you will have an opportunity to contribute as well, through the comments sections and the discussion forums we’ll be creating.

What can you expect? Everything. Elsewhere on the site you’ll see an ever-increasing collection of reference architectures, blueprints and case studies providing examples (some including code). We’ll have articles on Microsoft’s cloud vision, on its economics, we’ll discuss the new role of the client, how to incorporate machine learning into your applications, how to use enterprise modeling to design your ecosystem, how all the technology pieces fit together to form a cohesive, cost-effective, cool application that your users love.

Yes, we’re going to do all that.

And it’s going to be a blast.