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ERP and The Throw Everything in One Big Database Crowd

        posted by , July 26, 2011

The other day, I was discussing enterprise architecture with the CTO of a retail bank. He said something along the lines of:

Why do all of our applications have separate databases? We need to do all this integration — can't we have one big database for everything?

My first reaction was to cringe but then I realized that this is a conventional architectural pattern — it's called ERP.

ERP — One Big Application

ERP implements two architectural patterns:

1. one big application
2. one big database

ERP applications have such massive scope that they can theoretically replace hundreds of legacy applications. However, most real world ERP implementations retire few legacy applications — instead they integrate with them.

ERP architecture

ERP is an Integration Strategy

ERP is all about integration of processes, data and user interfaces.

Most organizations have a terrible track record for controlling application proliferation. As a result, it is common for large organizations to have hundreds (or even thousands) of legacy applications. The IT landscape of many organizations has become a big ball of mud (technology so complex and disorganized that no one understands it).

Large ERP vendors promise to replace the big ball of mud with one best of breed application.

Does it make any sense?

ERP solves a complex integration problem with a complex application. ERP benefits many organizations — if only because it gets everyone focused on a consistent IT strategy.

The complexity of ERP applications mean that implementation projects are fraught with risk — but as an architectural pattern ERP does make sense.

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