European Interoperability Reference Architecture
The European Interoperability Reference Architecture (EIRA) is
an architecture content metamodel defining the most salient architectural building blocks (ABBs) needed to build interoperable e-Government systems.
On 8 June 2015, release 0.9.0 beta of the EIRA entered an eight-week public review period. Stakeholders working for public administrations in the field of architecture and interoperability were invited to provide feedback.
What is EIRA?
The EIRA provides a common terminology that “can be used by people working for public administrations in various architecture and system development tasks“. The EIRA initiative is part of Action 2.1 of the ISA Programme.
The EIRA is a four-view reference architecture for delivering interoperable digital public services across borders and sectors. It defines the required capabilities for promoting interoperability as a set of architecture building blocks (ABBs). The EIRA has four main characteristics:
- Common terminology to achieve a minimum level of coordination: It provides a set of well-defined ABBs that provide a minimal common understanding of the most important building blocks needed to build interoperable public services.
- Reference architecture for delivering digital public services: It offers a framework to categorise (re)usable solution building blocks (SBBs) of an e-Government solution. It allows portfolio managers to rationalise, manage and document their portfolio of solutions.
- Technology- and product-neutral and a service-oriented architecture (SOA) style: The EIRA adopts a service-oriented architecture style and promotes ArchiMate as a modelling notation. In fact, the EIRA ABBs can be seen as an extension of the model concepts in ArchiMate.
- Alignment with EIF and TOGAF: The EIRA is aligned with the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) and complies with the context given in the European Interoperability Strategy (EIS) . The views of the EIRA correspond to the interoperability levels in the EIF: legal, organisational, semantic and technical interoperability. Within TOGAF and the Enterprise Architecture Continuum, EIRA focuses on the architecture continuum. It re-uses terminology and paradigms from TOGAF such as architecture patterns, building blocks and views.
EIRA in one picture
The figure below provides a high-level overview of the four views in EIRA. Each of the four views consists of a set of Architecture Building Blocks (ABBs) and relations pertaining to the legal, organisational, semantic and technical domain of an Interoperable European Architecture. Each view has entry and exit points from one view to another.
The legal, organisational, semantic and technical domains are the classic European interoperability concerns. The EIRA defines building blocks for each view.
In addition, a new Interoperability specification underpinning view has been added as an additional view, depicting architecture building blocks of the different views as a taxonomy of interoperability specifications:
EIRAs raison d’etre?
The key concepts of the EIRA and their relationships are described here:
The following list explains the different relationships:
A. The EIRA is derived from the European Interoperability Framework (EIF);
B. The EIRA has one view for each EIF interoperability level;
C. Each EIRA view contains several EIRA ABBs;
D. EIRA ABBs can be used to create reference architectures;
E. A SAT addresses a certain interoperability need. It consists of a sub-set of the most important EIRA ABBs and is derived from a reference architecture;
F. An EIRA SBB realizes one or more EIRA ABB;
G. A (interoperable) solution consists of one or more SBBs;
H. A (interoperable) solution realizes a solution architecture;
I. A solution architecture can be derived from a SAT or directly from a reference architecture;
J. As the EIRA focuses only on the most important ABBs needed for interoperability, other ABBs (= non-EIRA ABBs) can exist;
K. Similar to ABBs, non-EIRA SBBs can exist next to EIRA SBBs.
Further information about the EIRA can be obtained in the document ‘An introduction to the European Interoperability Reference Architecture v0.9.0′ (EIRA_v0.9.0_beta_overview.pdf). The release consists of the following release components:
- EIRA_v0.9.0_beta.archimate: Archi file containing the EIRA ArchiMate model.
- EIRA_v0.9.0_beta.html: HTML version of the EIRA ArchiMate model.
- EIRA_v0.9.0_beta_overview.pdf: PDF document containing an introduction to the EIRA, including its key concepts, used ArchiMate notation, tool support, and views.
- EIRA_v0.9.0_beta_ABBs: An HTML file containing the definitions of the architecture building blocks.
- EIRA_v0.9.0_beta_release_notes.pdf: PDF document containing the release notes.
- EIRA_v0.9.0_beta_release_document_set.zip: Zip file containing each of the above mentioned files.
Quick analysis of EIRA
EIRA lists 161 architecture building blocks. Of these, more than half are technical:
- 82 Technical View (27 Application and 55 Infrastructure)
- 26 Organisational View
- 19 Semantic View
- 18 Legal View
- 6 Interoperability View
- 10 Deprecated (11 if ABB59 Logging Service included – not marked in View:Deprecated but in Status).
The building blocks are described via selected archimate model concepts, of which four are used a lot:
- 40 archimate:ApplicationService
- 34 archimate:BusinessObject
- 26 archimate:ApplicationComponent
- 18 archimate:DataObject
Other model concepts are also used:
- 6 archimate:BusinessProcess
- 5 archimate:Contract
- 4 archimate:BusinessActor
- 3 archimate:BusinessRole
- 3 archimate:InfrastructureService
- 3 archimate:Network
- 3 archimate:Node
- 2 archimate:ApplicationInterface
- 1 archimate:BusinessFunction
- 1 archimate:BusinessInteraction
- 1 archimate:BusinessInterface
- 1 archimate:BusinessService
So, looking at the big picture, EIRA is perhaps a bit “heavy” on the technology side of interoperability, but does cover the four layers. In particular, EIRA establishes a set of views across the four layers. In doing so, it has to “embrace and extend” ArchiMate.
EIRA and ArchiMate
EIRAs commitment to ArchiMate is somewhat courageous. And somewhat creative, for example:
- EIRAs Business Capability is covered by archimate:BusinessFunction
- EIRAs Business Information Exchange is covered by archimate:BusinessInteraction
A Business Capability is the expression or the articulation of the capacity, materials and expertise an organization needs in order to perform core functions. Enterprise architects use business capabilities to illustrate the over-arching needs of the business in order to better strategize IT solutions that meet those business needs.
A Business Information Exchange is a piece of business data or a group of pieces of business data with a unique business semantics definition in a specific business context [ISO15000-5, UN/CEFACT CCTS].
These are work-arounds to two well-known ArchiMate limitations.
The archimate:BusinessObject is also quite busy, and for example covers these ABBs:
- Business Rule
- Business Information
- Organisational Procedure
- Organisational Structure
Again, work-arounds to current ArchiMate limitations.
EIRAs ABBs have changed with each release. Deprecated ABBs in the 0.9 beta include:
- Business Process
- Business Process Model
- Business Transaction
- Licensing and Charging Policy
- Metadata Management Policy
- Data Routing Service
- Data Routing Component
- Information Security Policy
- Data Quality Policy
- Logging Service?
So, Business Process and Business Process Model are deprecated, but the archimate:BusinessProcess model concept is used several times, namely for these ABBs:
- Public Policy Cycle
- Definition of Public Policy Objectives
- Formulation of Public Policy Scenarios
- Impact Assessment
- Public Policy Implementation
- Public Policy Evaluation
ArchiMate of course allows for a certain amount of flexibility (ArchiMate 2.1, Chapter 9 Language Extension Mechanisms), but the creativity can be dangerous, expecially in an interoperability context.
EIRA is an many ways ahead of ArchiMate. The challenge is that ArchiMate is under continuous development, and is likely to change on exactly these areas in future versions (see chapter 12.1 in the ArchiMate 2.1 spec). So EIRAs current notation standard should be seen as a temporary “fix”.
A note of caution
EIRA has obviously selected a winner of the longstanding Process vs Capability Debate. Eradicating processes is rather bold, and contrary to advice from experts like Roger Burlton, Paul Harmon, Alan Ramias and Andrew Spanyi, and Keith Swenson. While it is laudable to focus on capabilities, the use of capabilities should not be seen as an alternative to using processes and business process models. Both are needed.
EIRA and Open Data
From a maturity standpoint, this is only just acceptable. Even an Excel sheet version would be better, but better would be “raw data” available in a range of formats, possible as an api.
Apart from listing a few generic and rather useless Dublin Core metatags (in the HTML table), the current EIRA model is weak on metadata provision. EIRA could, for example, have used Data Catalog Vocabulary (DCAT) and Asset Description Metadata Schema (ADMS), and the team may want to check out this guide.
EIRA does not have any mapping to any other framework.
The Legal and the Organisational views are less conventional as architecture views go. The Semantic, Application (Technical) amd Infrastructure (Technical) views are classic architecture views in many EA frameworks. A comparison with established frameworks seems to be a good idea.
A key part of the US Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework Version 2 (FEAF-II) is the Consolidated Reference Model, which equips the US Federal Government and its Federal agencies with a common language and framework to describe and analyze investments. It consists of a set of interrelated reference models that describe the six sub-architecture domains in the framework:
EIRAs Legal view is roughly equivalent to FEAF-IIs Strategy (Performance Reference Model), and EIRAs Organisational view roughly equivalent to FEAF-IIs Business Reference Model.
Contentwise, EIRA and FEAF-II use these two layers in different ways:
EIRAs model scope is wider than FEAF-IIs, but FEAF-II is more comprehensive as a classification scheme.
EIRA should consider taking inspiration from FEAF-II, and at least add a security view. If anything, such view should become mandatory for all European governments.
Towards EIRA 1.0
The 0.9 release of EIRA is a big step forward for reference architecture work in European governments.
QualiWare proposes a rapid consolidation and documentation process, and then releasing Version 1.0. EIRA should not await the next version of ArchiMate, but rather run with well-documented revision control.
QualiWare is committed to supporting international governments in their interoperability work. QualiWare fully supports using ArchiMate 2.1. If customer demand requires it, the “EIRA ArchiMate” approach can easily be supported.