In the two decades since the dot-com boom, the digital revolution has dramatically transformed our world.
We’re now living with countless mobile devices providing digital surfaces to access a broad range of applications, many of which can be changed on the fly. Thousands of new applications emerge every day to help business achieve better customer reach and higher sales.
None of this would be possible without the new and more efficient IT and architecture paradigms.
Winners in #DigitalBusiness are embracing four new #ITarchitecture paradigms – Accenture's Michael Widjaja:
For businesses to remain competitive in this dynamic environment, keeping up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies is not enough. They need to stay ahead of the competition.
Taking the Lead
As winners separate themselves from the rest of the pack, they’re employing New IT paradigms (and recognizing the “changing face” of IT) in ways that provide more agility, higher productivity and improved software quality for competitive edge.
Just what are these new IT architecture paradigms?
Internet giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google were among the New IT early movers, and thanks to their success, these practices became mainstream. From an IT architecture perspective, New IT trends and technologies can be divided into four categories:
1. Multi-dimensional Decoupling of IT architecture
To accommodate increasing demands of multiple functionalities, IT solutions have become more complex, both in terms of coding and in integration and interaction with other modules, systems and platforms.
Since the mid-1990s, IT architecture transitioned from solid, monolithic mainframe into horizontally-layered, decoupled architectures. The layered structure in services and service-oriented architecture (SOA) brought many advantages, the most important the simplification by reutilizing components in the layers above it, without duplicating services or components every time.
However, if a specific functionality needs to be updated, it still requires testing with all its integrated components which directly impacts timelines and the agility of deployment to production.
In recent years, we’ve seen a new IT architecture paradigm in which platforms evolved into vertically decoupled systems. Vertical decoupling identifies parts of an application that need higher agility or more frequent changes, and isolates that functionality from the rest of the application.
The smaller isolated components can then be updated and tested and deployed to production without touching the other components allowing much better agility than before.
These “liquid” structures can be achieved through efficient modular design and use of APIs and micro-services. Many large internet platforms, such as Netflix, Google, Facebook and Amazon, have already gone this route, enabling them to change production multiple times a day, rather than month.
2. Multi-Speed Delivery
In the new world, apart from IT architecture, the way of development has also evolved end-to-end. Agile delivery methodology improves the way business and development interacts and focuses on gradually developing a solution in an iterative phased way with the business to get a better match with business expectations.
DevOps, another fast-growing methodology, focuses on moving solutions faster through development, testing and production by automating many tasks, as well as streamlining end-to-end processes through testing and production.
Through DevOps, we’ve seen delivery times sped up to by as much as 99 percent, compared to the traditional way of working (just how do you go about “calibrating” multi-speed IT for business demands? We’ve explored that question).
3. Application Modernization
In a typical company, application lifespans lasting much longer than planned. For many CIOs and chief architects, ensuring applications and underlying platforms stay updated is not usually at the top of their priority lists.
As a result, it’s not unusual for companies to run platforms without proper vendor support, leaving them vulnerable to security breaches. Recent cyberattacks showed outdated platforms victimized many companies, locking them out of their own data.
Apart from the security risk of non-supported platforms, chief architects may face other challenges:
Existing applications not aligned to or supporting the business strategy
Duplicate applications with similar functionalities
High platform cost of ownership
Application portfolio diagnosis helps companies to identify these potential issues and provide a path for optimization and modernization to reduce costs and improve performance, either through decommissioning, platform consolidation, upgrades and/or migration to the cloud.
4. Data as a Resource
Data has increased exponentially in terms of volume and in new, non-structured forms, such as images, videos and social data streams.
As a consequence, data storage platforms evolved from databases and data marts, then to data warehouses, and, now, to data “lakes” that store all data types. To facilitate these new high volumes of unstructured data, Big Data and Hadoop have become popular, cost-efficient means to gain analytical capabilities.
Another strengthening trend: data caching and in-memory computing, which is increasingly applied to improve application performance, compared to traditional disk technologies.
With the enormous data volume growth, consistency and synchronization between the various sources leveraging master data management will play an increasingly pivotal role in data architectures. We will see more of this type of governing structured, as well as more non-structural data sets.
Winning Game Plan
Keeping pace with New IT architectures, and defining a clear strategy for adapting these architectures, will be critical for businesses to remain competitive and succeed in the expanding digital economy.
In coming years, the winners, in our view, will differentiate themselves by clearly delivering on agility, IT quality and productivity.
What’s your plan?