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In your earlier message at post 2970 you stated, "I am still having trouble with the notion of an “open proprietary architecture.” Mick Buckley helped me out by referencing the book, so I understand the “open” part now. I guess what I am searching for is a series of two or three questions I could ask myself when doing research to nail this point."

This is a hugely important point for the Gorilla Game and you are right on the money in trying to define it better. Maybe the best way to think about architecture is using a building metaphor. According to Webster, the word architect is derived from the Italian Renaissance Period where archi (Chief) + tekton (Worker) was the person who organized craftsmen. Architecture is defined as the ordered arrangement of parts in a system. The job of a building architect is to understand the purpose of a particular building (high rise commercial office tower, manufacturing facility, strip shopping mall, etc.) and coordinate all the various components (site access, foundation, structural, mechanical, electrical, lighting, HVAC, loading and storage, transportation, safety, etc.) that must be present to enable the building to fulfill its intended purpose. Each of these major building components are actually complex systems themselves and must have an architecture that is complementary to the overall architecture of the building. Ultimately, each of these major system components must integrate and interoperate with the other major system components in order to ensure the building works efficiently and effectively. Designing a technology platform works exactly the same way and the concept of architecture applies equally well to application software, computer hardware, networks, data storage, telecommunications systems, etc.

For example, consider a cellular system. The overall wireless network will have an architecture, the individual cell phones will have an architecture, and the microprocessor in each cell phone will have an architecture. If we drill down into the microprocessor component and apply the building architecture metaphor we will find site access (I/O ports), foundation (semiconductor logic), structural (case), transportation (internal data bus), storage area (memory), mechanical (oscillators), HVAC (cooling structure), management systems (control software), etc. The design requirements of an new web enabled cell phone (big screen for data viewing, high bandwidth data connection, etc.) would drive many component decisions in order to meet size, power consumption, and shock resistance limitations. As the design requirements begin to exceed the capabilities of existing technologies, the door is opened for discontinuous innovations which meet the new cost and performance requirements.

International standards bodies have been created to standardize everything from the strength of concrete to the number of bits in a data stream. However, in a limited number of cases, technologies have developed in ways that allowed a company to create a successful proprietary architecture. Importantly, this has often happened when the innovation is discontinuous and software is used to both glue the different parts of the architecture together and form an “abstraction layer” between the user and the underlying technology.

At an early stage, a new technology will probably not represent an entirely new architecture in and of itself but rather will form a component (hopefully a significant component making it the technical equivalent of a heart, brain, or spine) of an emerging architecture. To be successful, the component developer will need help to complete the architecture and will need to “design in” components from other companies (using software to create the linkages) and recruit partners to complete the technology and business architecture (what Moore calls “the whole product solution”). In later stages, as the architecture takes full shape, the architect can use its position of power and influence to "design out" the other components thereby extending its control over the architecture and maximizing future revenue streams. In later stages, it may even become possible for the architect to use its growing power to expand its control beyond architecture of the major system component to architecture of the entire system itself. Some examples:

- ORCL became the relational database Gorilla when it used SQL to create an abstraction layer between users and the underlying minicomputer client/server technology platforms. It extended the architecture to include decision support tools and business applications.

- CSCO became the enterprise network routing Gorilla when it used IOS to create an abstraction layer between users and the underlying network hardware. It extended the architecture to include management tools and other parts of the enterprise architecture including hubs and switches of various topologies.

- INTC and MSFT became the PC Gorillas when they used their micro-code and Windows operating system software to create an abstraction layer between users and the underlying microprocessor. MSFT extended its part of the WINTEL architecture by taking over file/print services and applications while INTC took over virtually every component found on the motherboard.

To boil it all down, the four questions I would ask are:

1. Does this technology represent discontinuous innovation?

2. Can this technology become and important component (heart, mind, or spine) of a larger system?

3. Can software be used to link other components into a complete architecture?

4. Does the developing company have the vision, ability, and position to control the architecture?

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