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What is Solution Architecture?


There are many definitions of "solution architecture" in the industry but as of yet no official definition exists. The Open Group (2009) defined solution architecture as: A description of a discrete and focused business operation or activity and how IS/IT supports that operation. A Solution Architecture typically applies to a single project or project release, assisting in the translation of requirements into a solution vision, high-level business and/or IT system specifications, and a portfolio of implementation tasks. [1]

Definition provided by Gartner (2013) includes a hint of a relationship between a solution architecture and the enterprise architecture: A solution architecture (SA) is an architectural description of a specific solution. SAs combine guidance from different enterprise architecture viewpoints (business, information and technical), as well as from the enterprise solution architecture (ESA). [2] And Greefhorst and Proper (2013) define solution architecture as: An architecture of a solution, where a solution is a system that offers a coherent set of functionalities to its environment. As such, it concerns those properties of a solution that are necessary and sufficient to meet its essential requirements[3]

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 a very specific nature of solution architecture and on its alignment with higher-level principles and specifications.

Solution architecture activities:

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. [4]

Relationship with enterprise architecture:

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 aforementioned four types of architecture, operates at the strategic level and its scope and span is the enterprise rather than a specific business problem.[5] Consequently, enterprise architecture provides strategic direction and guidance to solution architecture. [6]


  1. The Open Group. Architecture Framework TOGAF"! Version 9. 2009. p. 93

  2. Gartner, "IT Glossary," at, 2013. Accessed 00-03-2015.

  3. Danny Greefhorst and Erik Proper, Architecture Principles: The Cornerstones of Enterprise
    Architecture, 2011. p. 25

  4. Forrester Research, Inc., (2012), Solution Architecture Toolkit: Overview

  5. FEAPO, "A Common Perspective on Enterprise Architecture" in: Architecture and Governance
    Magazine, 2013(11).

  6. Mistrík Ivan, Antony Tang, Rami Bahsoon, Judith A. Stafford. (2013), Aligning Enterprise, System,
    and Software Architectures. Business Science Reference.

Further reading:

  • Banerjee, Jaidip, and Sohel Aziz. "SOA: the missing link between enterprise architecture and solution
    architecture." SETLabs briefing 5.2 (2007): 69-80.

  • Chen, Graham, and Qinzheng Kong. "Integrated management solution architecture." Network Operations and
    Management Symposium, 2000. NOMS 2000. 2000 IEEE/IFIP. IEEE, 2000.

  • Gulledge, Thomas, et al. "Solution architecture alignment for logistics portfolio management." International
    Journal of Services and Standards 1.4 (2005): 401-413.

  • Shan, Tony Chao, and Winnie W. Hua. "Solution architecture for n-tier applications." Services Computing, 2006.
    SCC'06. IEEE International Conference on. IEEE, 2006.

  • Slot, Raymond, Guido Dedene, and Rik Maes. "Business value of solution architecture." Advances in
    Enterprise Engineering II. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2009. 84-108.

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