Applications are an extension of business process and user collaboration and the application layer in the Adaptable Data Center® (ADC) has multiple perspectives and impacts. The first aspect is the type of applications. Applications can be divided into two broad categories; process oriented like ERP and order to cash application suites, and the other grouping is focused on engagement and productivity.
Process-based applications can be further described as systems of record. Systems of record tend to be internally facing applications that have large database back-ends and keep track of the daily transactions that fuel business. Systems of record by definition have to be orderly and integrated at all times so data is consistent and preserved. You know these systems as the dinosaurs of your enterprise, though extinction of these applications tends to be exaggerated. As long as we have transactions, we will need applications that authoritatively track and maintain those records.
The other application type, often called systems of engagement, are more human oriented and are the productivity tools that we use to get our tasks completed and collaborate with our colleagues and partners. These applications focus less on process and more on user interactions. They leverage mobile, social, cloud, and big data innovation to deliver apps and smart products in the context of our daily lives and real-time workflows of customers, partners and employees. We are more familiar with these application types with a growing dependence on mobile and social to get our business completed in the time demands we face.
Systems of record are entrenched while we have an increasing dependence on human enabling applications to access the information stored in these processes and application. There was a time when we simply were focused on webifying these applications for greater usability. Then we added mobilizing access so we had access anytime / any place. Now we have yet another axis with social applications that bring greater real-time collaboration with extended groups. Add to this mix SaaS / cloud-based applications that can be both systems of record and systems of engagement and reside outside the data center. The plot thickens from just a few years ago.
For those of you who are counting, we have system of record applications based on business process that are the authoritative sources of transactional data. We also have user and social productivity applications that are human facing and can be traditional web-based and/or mobile applications that more easily access the systems of record data. We also have SaaS and mobile applications that may leverage their own data sources as well as collaborative social applications that crowd-source new data and content in real-time.
Given the complexity of applications types, the data that is consumed and exposed by these applications, the user demands of these applications and where these applications reside, integration and security have become proportionally complex. Point-to-point integration is a lost cause. Integration must be considered with an any-to-any model much like the enterprise service bus concepts. The difference is now the bus must be extensive to include SaaS and cloud constructs. Security has to extend everywhere. There are no more borders. Micro segmentation and workload security becomes the new normal. The ADC needs to become very adaptable to find new methods for cost to serve, agility and security.
One more wrinkle; application development. Today we acknowledge three development models; waterfall for the more traditional and systems of record applications, agile that speeds development cycles and moves the data closer to the line of business users, and DevOps that fully integrates development, users and operations into a single development lifecycle of ongoing collaboration. We also are seeing the rise of an extension of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) service-based development platforms where applications can be assembled from a series of micro-services to become composite applications, almost on demand. IBM Bluemix is an example of these new platforms. New portability models of virtualized containers add yet another layer of innovation and value. Adapting the right development model is complex and obviously important to optimize application value.
As stated in the beginning, applications are an extension of business process and user collaboration. How you adapt your business, processes, data, security and user community interaction has never been more rewarding, innovative, exciting, complex and daunting. Questions often arise regarding what applications you should maintain in-house, what should be moved to cloud, what should be SaaS, how to protect your data through all its transformations and the best methodology for development. CMI’s Adaptable Data Center® framework and our experienced business consultants and architects are here to help determine the best balance for your firm as you move forward. Application adaptability engage our assets for your advantage.