Data Architecture

Data Architecture is a fundamental pillar of Data Management which translates the short and long term needs of the business into defined data management requirements. The requirements form a master blueprint which informs a data architecture roadmap that brings current systems into alignment with requirements.

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Definition of Data Architecture

Data architecture is a sub-domain of Enterprise Architecture concerned with identifying the data needs of the enterprise and designing the models and blueprints that meet those needs. The most detailed Data Architecture design document is a formal enterprise data model. It would include details such as data names, comprehensive data and Metadata definition, conceptual and logical entities and relationships, and business rules. Through a process of data modeling and design, physical data models can be included.

Data Architecture aims to achieve 3 main goals:

  1. Identify data storage and processing requirements
  2. Design plans to meet the current and future data requirements of the enterprise
  3. Prepare organizations to exploit business opportunities inherent in emerging technology

Defining data is tricky, which is why it is so important that data architecture efforts be understood as it relates to information architecture, data engineering and data modeling.

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Data architecture vs. information architecture

Data is by itself meaningless. To make data meaningful, to be understood and made valuable, it must be wrapped in context. Information Architecture is concerned with applying this context to data through the organization and labeling of data so that it becomes meaningful. Information Architecture is concerned with an “information ecology” made up of the interdependence of context, content, and users.

  • Contextual factors include business goals, funding, politics, culture, technology, resources, and constraints.
  • Content factors include content objectives, document and data types, volume, existing structure, governance and ownership.
  • User related factors include what audience, tasks, needs, information-seeking behavior, and experiences they expect.

Data architecture vs. data engineering

Data architecture and data engineering are complementary in building an Enterprise Data Management Framework. A data architect and data engineer work together to conceptualize, visualize, and then build the framework The data architect visualizes the complete framework and creates the formal enterprise data model, which the data engineer uses to build the “digital framework.” The data architect and data engineer may have overlapping skills and expertise in database architecture, but they apply these skills and knowledge differently. The data architect brings their expertise in handling disparate data sources, while the data engineer builds and maintains the actual data architecture for the enterprise.

Data architecture vs. data modeling

Both data architecture and data modeling deal in abstractions of data. But whereas data architecture takes a macro perspective of data management and usage, data modeling is microfocused on data assets. Data modelers create a visual representation of data entities, their attributes and how different entities relate to each other. These conceptual, logical, and physical data models then support the scoping of data requirements for applications and further the designing of database structures. Data architects consider macro models to build frameworks that data modelers complement by fleshing out the details of database structures based on the frameworks requirements.

Principles of Data Architecture

Data architecture is the design of the structure, organization, and storage of data within an organization or system. There are several principles that guide the development of a sound data architecture:

  • Alignment with business strategy: The data architecture should be aligned with the overall business strategy and goals, ensuring that data supports the organization’s objectives.
  • Data integration: The architecture should support the integration of data from different sources, systems, and technologies to ensure consistency and accuracy across the organization.
  • Data security and privacy: The architecture should ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, and comply with relevant regulations and standards.
  • Scalability and flexibility: The architecture should be scalable to accommodate growth and changes in data volume and complexity, and flexible enough to support changing business needs and emerging technologies.
  • Data quality: The architecture should support the collection, validation, and cleansing of high-quality data to ensure its accuracy and usefulness.
  • Standardization and normalization: The architecture should promote standardization and normalization of data to ensure consistency, reduce redundancy, and simplify data management.
  • Data governance: The architecture should establish clear policies, procedures, and responsibilities for managing data throughout its lifecycle, ensuring accountability and compliance with regulations and standards.

By following these principles, organizations can develop a robust data architecture that supports their business objectives, enables effective decision-making, and facilitates innovation and growth.

Components of Data Architecture

Data architects rely on several components to formulate their enterprise data model including:

  • Data models: These are the graphical or written representations of the data, including entity-relationship diagrams, data flow diagrams, and data dictionaries.
  • Data storage: This refers to the physical or virtual storage of the data, including databases, data warehouses, data lakes, and cloud storage.
  • Data integration: This refers to the processes and tools used to extract, transform, and load data from different sources into a unified format.
  • Data governance: This includes the policies, standards, and procedures for managing data throughout its lifecycle, including data quality, security, privacy, and compliance.
  • Metadata management: This involves the management of data about data, including data lineage, data definitions, and data classifications.
  • Data processing: This includes the tools and technologies used to process and analyze data, including data mining, data visualization, and artificial intelligence.
  • Data access: This refers to the mechanisms for accessing and retrieving data, including application programming interfaces (APIs), data services, and query languages.
  • Data architecture governance: This involves the management of the data architecture itself, including its design, implementation, and maintenance, and ensuring its alignment with business goals and objectives.

Modern data architecture relies on several innovative technological components that data engineers can use to build the enterprises ‘digital framework’.

  • Data Pipelines — Data pipelines are a series of automated processes that extract, transform, and load (ETL) data from various sources and move it to a destination system or application. Data pipelines are used to ensure that data is collected, processed, and delivered in a timely and efficient manner to support critical business operations.
  • Cloud Storage — Cloud storage refers to the online storage of data on remote servers that are accessed over the internet. Instead of storing data on a local hard drive or physical storage device, cloud storage allows users to store and access data from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Cloud Computing — Cloud computing is a model of delivering computing resources, such as servers, storage, applications, and services, over the internet, on a pay-per-use basis. Instead of hosting these resources on local servers or physical devices, cloud computing allows users to access them over the internet from anywhere in the world, using any device.
  • APIs — APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are a set of protocols, routines, and tools used to build software applications. APIs allow different software applications to communicate with each other, share data, and interact with each other’s features and functionalities.
  • AI and ML Models — AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) models are computer algorithms that can learn and make predictions or decisions based on patterns in data.
  • Data Streaming — Data streaming is the continuous and real-time transfer of data from various sources to a destination system. It is a process of transmitting and processing data as it is generated, rather than storing and processing it later.
  • Container Orchestration — Container orchestration is the process of managing and automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Container orchestration platforms provide a framework for managing and coordinating containerized applications, ensuring that they run efficiently, reliably, and at scale.
  • Real-time Analytics — Real-time analytics is the practice of analyzing data as it is generated or received, and making decisions or predictions in real-time based on that data. It involves processing and analyzing data as it is generated, without delay or latency.

Types of Data Architecture

Data fabrics

Data fabric is an approach to data management that integrates disparate data sources into a unified, consistent, and accessible data infrastructure. A data fabric provides a unified view of data, regardless of where it is stored, how it is structured, or how it is processed.

Data fabrics are designed to be flexible and scalable, allowing organizations to manage data across a variety of sources, including on-premises systems, public and private clouds, and edge devices. A data fabric can provide a range of capabilities, including data integration, data governance, data security, and data analytics.

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Data meshes

Data Mesh is a new approach to data architecture that is designed to address the challenges of managing data at scale in a modern, distributed, and dynamic environment. A Data Mesh is an organizational model that treats data as a product and empowers cross-functional teams to manage their own data assets.

The key principles of a Data Mesh include:

  • Domain-driven decentralized data ownership: Data is owned and managed by domain-specific teams, rather than centralized IT teams.
  • Self-serve data platform: Teams are provided with self-serve data platforms that enable them to manage their own data assets, without relying on IT teams.
  • Data as a product: Data is treated as a product, with a focus on data quality, documentation, and usability.
  • Federated data governance: Governance policies and practices are federated across domains and teams.
  • Infrastructure as code: Data infrastructure is treated as code, with a focus on automation and repeatability.

Data Architecture Frameworks

A data architecture framework is a set of guidelines, principles, and standards that provide a structured approach to designing, organizing, and managing an organization’s data assets. A data architecture framework provides a common language and a shared understanding of how data is managed and used within an organization.

A data architecture framework typically includes the following components:

  • Data governance: The policies, procedures, and standards that govern how data is managed and used within an organization.
  • Data modeling: The process of defining and designing the structure and relationships of data entities.
  • Data integration: The process of combining and transforming data from multiple sources into a unified data model.
  • Data storage: The physical and logical storage of data, including database systems, data warehouses, and data lakes.
  • Data management: The process of managing data throughout its lifecycle, including data quality, data lineage, and data security.
  • Data architecture tools and technologies: The software tools and technologies used to implement and manage a data architecture.

A data architecture framework provides a holistic view of an organization’s data assets, and ensures that data is managed in a consistent, efficient, and effective manner.


The DAMA-DMBOK 2 (Data Management Body of Knowledge) is a comprehensive guide to the principles and best practices of data management. It provides a framework for data management professionals to design, implement, and maintain effective data management programs within their organizations.

The DAMA-DMBOK 2 is structured into 11 chapters, which cover the following areas:

  • Data governance: The policies, procedures, and standards that govern how data is managed and used within an organization.
  • Data architecture: The design and organization of data assets, including data models, data integration, and data storage.
  • Data modeling and design: The process of defining and designing the structure and relationships of data entities.
  • Metadata management: The management of data definitions, lineage, and usage.
  • Data quality management: The process of ensuring the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data.
  • Master and reference data management: The management of key data elements that are shared across an organization.
  • Data warehousing and business intelligence: The design and development of data warehouses and analytical systems.
  • Document and content management: The management of unstructured data, including documents and multimedia.
  • Data integration and interoperability: The process of combining and transforming data from multiple sources.
  • Data security and privacy: The protection of data assets from unauthorized access, theft, or loss.
  • Data management and governance practices: Best practices for implementing and maintaining a data management program.

The DAMA-DMBOK 2 is considered a leading reference for data management professionals and provides a comprehensive and practical approach to managing data assets.

Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture

The Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture is a framework for organizing and classifying the various components of an enterprise architecture. It was developed by John Zachman in the 1980s and is still widely used today.

The framework is structured around six perspectives or “views” of the enterprise architecture:

  • The “What” perspective: This view describes the enterprise from a business perspective, including the goals, strategies, and objectives of the organization.
  • The “How” perspective: This view describes the enterprise from a process perspective, including the workflows, procedures, and methods used to achieve the business goals.
  • The “Where” perspective: This view describes the enterprise from a location perspective, including the physical locations of the organization and its resources.
  • The “Who” perspective: This view describes the enterprise from a personnel perspective, including the roles, responsibilities, and skills of the people involved in the organization.
  • The “When” perspective: This view describes the enterprise from a time perspective, including the timing and sequence of events, processes, and activities.
  • The “Why” perspective: This view describes the enterprise from a motivation perspective, including the driving forces behind the organization and its decisions.

The Zachman Framework is often depicted as a matrix, with the perspectives forming the rows and the various components of the enterprise architecture forming the columns. The framework provides a structured approach to enterprise architecture and can help organizations to align their IT systems with their business goals and objectives.

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF)

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) is a framework for enterprise architecture that provides a standardized approach to designing, planning, implementing, and managing enterprise architecture. It was first introduced in the mid-1990s and has since become one of the most widely used enterprise architecture frameworks.

TOGAF is divided into several components, including:

  • Architecture Development Method (ADM): This is the core of the TOGAF framework and provides a step-by-step process for creating and implementing an enterprise architecture.
  • Architecture Content Framework: This defines the various artifacts that are used to describe and document the enterprise architecture, including models, diagrams, and matrices.
  • Architecture Capability Framework: This defines the organizational capabilities required to support the development and management of an enterprise architecture, including roles and responsibilities, processes, and tools.
  • TOGAF Reference Models: These provide templates and best practices for designing and implementing specific types of architectures, such as data, application, and technology architectures.

TOGAF is designed to be flexible and adaptable to different organizational needs and contexts. It provides a common language and a set of best practices for enterprise architecture, which can help organizations to align their IT systems with their business goals and objectives, and improve their overall efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, TOGAF is often used as a basis for IT certification and training programs, providing a standardized and recognized set of skills and knowledge for enterprise architects.

Modern Data Architecture Best Practices

There are several best practices for designing modern data architectures that can help organizations effectively manage and derive value from their data. Some of these best practices include:

  1. Focus on business outcomes: The data architecture should be designed with a clear understanding of the business outcomes it is intended to support. This requires close collaboration between business stakeholders and data architects to identify the key data requirements and use cases that will drive value for the organization.
  2. Embrace flexibility and agility: Modern data architectures need to be flexible and agile to support changing business needs and evolving data sources. This may involve adopting cloud-based data storage and processing platforms, using open-source tools and technologies, and building modular data pipelines that can be easily modified and scaled.
  3. Ensure data quality and governance: Effective data quality and governance are essential for ensuring that data is accurate, consistent, and trustworthy. This requires the development and implementation of data management policies, procedures, and controls, as well as the use of tools and technologies for monitoring and ensuring data quality.
  4. Implement security and privacy measures: Data security and privacy are critical concerns for modern data architectures. Organizations need to implement appropriate security and privacy measures, such as data encryption, access controls, and monitoring tools, to protect sensitive data and comply with regulatory requirements.
  5. Leverage advanced analytics and AI/ML: Modern data architectures can enable advanced analytics and AI/ML capabilities that can help organizations derive new insights and create value from their data. This requires the use of tools and technologies for data visualization, predictive analytics, and machine learning, as well as the development of data science and analytics capabilities within the organization.
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Data Architecture Management

Data architecture management refers to the process of designing, implementing, and maintaining a data architecture for an organization. It involves the creation and management of the structures, policies, and procedures that govern how data is stored, accessed, and used within the organization.

There are several roles involved in data architecture, each with its own set of responsibilities and tasks. Some of the common data architecture roles include:

  • Data Architect: The data architect is responsible for designing and implementing the data architecture for an organization. This includes creating the conceptual, logical, and physical data models, defining data standards and policies, and ensuring the quality, security, and accessibility of data.
  • Data Analyst: The data analyst is responsible for analyzing and interpreting data to provide insights and support decision-making. They may work closely with the data architect to ensure that the data architecture meets the needs of the business and is designed to support effective data analysis.
  • Data Engineer: The data engineer is responsible for designing and building the infrastructure and tools needed to support the data architecture. This includes designing databases and data warehouses, building data pipelines, and implementing data security and governance measures.
  • Database Administrator: The database administrator is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the databases and data warehouses used in the data architecture. This includes monitoring performance, ensuring data integrity and security, and performing backups and restores.
  • Business Intelligence Developer: The business intelligence developer is responsible for designing and building the tools and dashboards used to visualize and analyze data. They work closely with the data analyst and data architect to ensure that the tools meet the needs of the business and are integrated with the overall data architecture.
  • Data Scientist: A data scientist is a professional who uses statistical and computational methods to analyze and interpret complex data sets. Data scientists are skilled in the use of advanced analytical and statistical techniques to identify patterns, make predictions, and provide insights that can help businesses make better decisions.
  • Data Modelers: A data modeler is a professional who is responsible for designing and implementing data models. Data models are representations of the data that are used to organize, store, and manage information in a database or other data management system.

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