This post was originally published here

After a few customer engagements recently this topic has come up several times, some lean in closer and let’s have a chat on it.

How application infrastructure is evolving to support digital business?

The great thing in this modern era is that businesses are placing great pressure on traditional IT, integrators and solution architects to innovate and look for that next disruptive edge.

With a pea sized idea, access to the rapidly evolving cloud technologies businesses can disrupt even the most cemented industries. In fact many of my customer meetings are around disruption, “What/How can we disrupt today?”. The business climate has never been better & hence the birth of the phrase ‘digital business’.

Many companies that ‘push tin’ are scrambling to offer a range of other services as they also see the future is not in tin, not so much in technical expertise (while I do love being part of a great team, cloud templates can put short work to our previous ‘cluster’ expert), but in being agile! Taking an idea whether it’s IoT or anything else and realising the solution. In my opinion, this is the skill that will be much sought after in the market.

Integration is key here.


What about the application landscape? How has it changed?

Great question!

middlewareFigure 2 – Depicting the role of middleware

From what I’ve experienced is that over the past 20 odd years, application integration ‘layers’ (or middleware) were large, monolithic and usually cost a fair bit of $$. Associated with a software platform purchase was a good 9-18 month evaluation of the platform to see if it was ‘fit for purpose’.

(There were a whole series of VAN’s in this space as well – Value Added Networks, which made life simple to move data/messages through a particular industry vertical. This was partly because it was made complex by proprietary interfaces, and also the fact that the VAN providers wanted customer lock-in. So naturally everything to do with these environments was ‘hard’ and we let the ‘experts’ deal with it)

In these times many of the systems and applications all had custom ways to communicate. Software vendors reluctantly opened up ways of getting data in/out of their system. Communications standards were lacking, as well as message formats and protocols.

The fact that the middleware platforms communicated with a large number of systems from DB2, SAP, OracleEB, JD Edwards through to Pronto (ERPs) made attractive choices for businesses that saw the value in getting ‘end-to-end integration’ and a full 360 degree customer view.

Fast forward to present day…..

Software vendors are exploding at a rate of knots all over the web. Applications are more about functionality than specifically where they run – on-premises or cloud or…phone…or where ever. Applications today are modular and connected by well known interfaces – although the resiliency and interface workflows are lagging behind a little in this realm.

The software industry realises that mobile devices are king and they build applications accordingly. For e.g. the pseudo modern accepted message/data exchange JSON/HTTP (aka REST) based APIs. I had one of my team members complain when an interface they were talking to was SOAP. I felt like I was talking about tape backups 🙂

Given that Mobile is taking charge and software is providing better foundations for ease of mobile development and operation, you could call it the mobile evolution….

REST based APIs are accepted as the norm with OpenId/OAuth being token based authentication standards, allowing the beauty of delegated authentication (something that plagued many previous integration implementations in the quest for the elusive single sign-on capability).

middleware_today.pngFigure 3 – Illustrates the business need to maximise and provide a comprehensive set of APIs in which to monetise.

Businesses today are realising they don’t need mobile, they don’t need a website….they need an API!!! An API:

  • to expose their business to public consumers
  • to expose their business to down stream consumers
  • to expose their business to upstream consumers
  • to commercialise their offerings.

They now realise they can get away from building ‘yet another mobile app’ and focus squarely on turning data into information.

Software today needs to produce analytics cause gone are the days when we got excited at just being ‘connected’.