A reference architecture in the field of software architecture or enterprise architecture provides a template solution for an architecture for a particular domain. It also provides a common vocabulary with which to discuss implementations, often with the aim to stress commonality. - Wikipedia.
Reference Architectures (RAs) provide a mechanism for groups across the Enterprise to express and align themselves with a shared vision. At the UW, that shared vision supports the UW mission and aligns with UW-IT strategic goals.
Reference Architectures and Models help align the strategies and roadmaps of existing services and technologies and inform the delivery of new solutions and services. They provide the guardrails on either side of our roadmaps. They help insure that solutions are leveraging the current, best practice, solutions and they inform people of technologies and/or services that are near end-of-life. They help designers and implementers leverage the lessons-learned and knowledge of experts by sharing the vision and designs of the experts through common language.
RA artifacts themselves are not so important as the process of UW stakeholders coming together to construct those artifacts and, in so doing, converge on common solutions. The RAs represent the product of building a common approach across stakeholders as much as they serve as a guide for implementations.
For that reason, appropriate and sufficiently broad representation in RA teams is critical to the success of getting to common and shared solutions. It is the responsibility of the EA program to encourage processes and provide tools and frameworks for that collaboration to take place.
Please see the Reference Architecture Library (wiki) and Reference Architecture Domains for RAs in the following architecture domains.