An architect is a person who designs computer systems. The architectural aspects of computer
systems are extremely complex, but still fairly simple in comparison to, say, the design of a
building. In the case of computer systems, however, the architect has to take into consideration
the aesthetic as well as the functionality of the finished product. Architecture is the art of seeing
things abstractly and developing plans to build them. A systems architect is in charge of the
overall implementation of that plan.
A systems architect designs the physical infrastructure of a company. This infrastructure usually
consists of hardware, like computers, and software, like programs. For instance, a systems
architect may develop one kind of infrastructure for a small company with 400 employees that
will be hit with new data files weekly. Alternatively, he may be responsible for designing the
infrastructure for a medium-sized company that will have thousands of employees at its disposal.
In both cases, the architect must consider how his changes will affect the company’s finances,
operations, and employee productivity.
Architecting computer systems also involves the study of computer architecture. This part of the
job requires studying the various kinds of computer architecture, or the relationships among
different technologies. Among the most popular of computer technology architectures are the x
and y formats, which specify the relationship between computer systems and their languages
(e.g., Java and C). Not all architectures are compatible with all systems; therefore, developers
must write programs for each architecture differently.
Architecting computer systems also involves the study of networking. There are many different
types of networks, including the Internet, CDI, ATM networks, WAN/MSN, and SMTP. These
networks have different protocols and must be implemented differently. Networking has an
impact on many aspects of computer systems’ design. For instance, if an Internet network is set
up to connect a small office to other locations in the area, the IT team should consider how to
best keep these other locations up-to-date.
Information technology is not the only aspect of architecture that an architect can focus on.
Designers of computer systems must also study computer architecture, as well. As mentioned
above, one major effect of networking is the creation of intranet systems, which require good
planning to set up and maintain. Computer systems also interact with applications, storage
devices, memory, processors, memory management, input and output devices, operating
systems, and other components. Therefore, good planning is crucial to developing an
information technology infrastructure that is capable of supporting enterprise systems.
A career as a computer systems architect provides opportunities to develop leadership skills,
while learning about the latest computer technologies. An architect can lead a team of other IT
professionals who are required to implement his ideas. When leading a team, the architect may
not be the only one involved in the decision making process, since he or she may rely upon
several other people for input. In fact, he or she may have a staff of support professionals to
assist him or her. However, since the architect must implement every part of the computer
systems design, it is the responsibility of the architect to ensure that the project is executed
The field of computer systems engineering offers a number of options for those interested in
becoming computer systems architects. Online courses can be taken, so there is no need to
relocate to a specific college or university. Courses are available through a number of colleges
and universities in the United States, as well as abroad.
In order to become certified as a computer systems architect, a degree in computer systems
technology or a corresponding certification is necessary. Those who decide to pursue a career
as a computer systems engineer generally select a four-year college, whether private or public,
where they can earn a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree. Depending on what type
of computer systems engineering coursework is required, technical school graduates may be
able to skip a year and take classes towards a Bachelor of Science program in computer
systems. Once in the graduate program, students must also complete a dissertation on their
chosen field of computer systems architecture.