Don't Ignore the Effects of Pace Layering on Your Application Integration Strategy

11 November 2013 ID:G00257982
Analyst(s): Benoit J. Lheureux, Bill Swanton, Paolo Malinverno

VIEW SUMMARY

Gartner's Pace-Layered Application Strategy helps companies manage their evolving application portfolios. Application managers must address the premise that applications will involve new devices and data types, flexible deployment models and different velocities of change.

Overview

Impacts

  • In a pace-layered portfolio, applications are loosely coupled and change at different rates; application managers face integration complexity in distributed environments.
  • Innovative, differentiating applications demand new deployment options and functionality regrouping, creating challenges for directors of integration.
  • Integrating rapidly changing, multienterprise and Nexus of Forces applications with slowly changing systems of records will proliferate sets of APIs that must be carefully managed.
  • The impact of the Nexus of Forces and pace-layering strategies will challenge the integration project fulfillment capacity of many IT organizations and lines of business.

Recommendations

  • Reassess your basic integration skills, identifying gaps between existing integration competencies and those required to support your pace-layered application strategy.
  • Develop the ability to integrate on demand as the portfolio evolves and the use of the APIs you publish changes.
  • Establish well-defined integration roles and responsibilities across central IT and LOBs
  • Strengthen your integration competencies in cloud services integration, API management and mobile devices.
  • Define an application services governance road map to support pace-layered applications and develop APIs through their life cycle capabilities.
  • Define an explicit integration sourcing strategy for your pace-layered application strategy, including evaluating embedded or outsourced approaches.

Analysis

As application pace layering becomes more pervasive, it leads to larger, more-complex and rapidly evolving application portfolios (see "Best Practices for Implementing a Pace-Layered Application Strategy"). A key impact of this trend is that application managers must do increasing amounts of application integration to support composition, link different forms of process logic, support proliferating mobile devices and data types, and reconcile inconsistent and overlapping data between end-to-end processes across loosely-coupled distributed application systems (see "Predicts 2013: Application Integration"), as well as implement these processes.

For example, digital business strategies involving the Internet of Things and collaboration with customers and partners are often implemented as end-to-end business processes spanning internal systems, SaaS and mobile apps, using combinations of unstructured and master data, linked to systems and data owned by outside organizations. In other words, the adoption of a pace-layering strategy will accelerate and scatter (within and outside your organization) the number of distributed application process and data endpoints that must be integrated. In this research, we identify how pace layering will affect your integration strategy, and what application managers and directors of integration must do to ensure that their integration competencies will be up to the task of supporting the pace-layering strategy.

Figure 1. Impacts and Top Recommendations for Don't Ignore the Effects of Pace Layering on Your Application Integration Strategy
Figure 1.Impacts and Top Recommendations for Don't Ignore the Effects of Pace Layering on Your Application Integration Strategy

Source: Gartner (November 2013)

Impacts and Recommendations

In a pace-layered portfolio, applications are loosely coupled and change at different rates; application managers face integration complexity in distributed environments

In the "new normal" of a growing, rapidly evolving application portfolio, just being "good enough" at integration won't be enough. Companies that adopt Gartner's Pace-Layered Application Strategy will leverage a range of applications that change at faster rates than traditional applications, use new providers and technologies, and extend beyond the four walls of the enterprise. At the same time, they must be integrated, requiring appropriate connective tissue to support composition, data synchronization and multistep business processes. Such applications will be knitted together to implement seamless, end-to-end business processes spanning internal applications, cloud services, mobile apps and external business partners.

Successful application managers will recognize the need for — and even embrace — such inherent end-to-end business process complexity, and respond by designing their applications, and application architectures for flexibility. However, this creates a corresponding demand to implement increasingly complex, heterogeneous integration projects faster and more efficiently. This evolution of your applications portfolio will require directors of infrastructure and other IT leaders responsible for integration to invest in a well-balanced set of integration competencies spanning a wide range of technical and organization skills, including:

  • Basic technical skills — e.g., integration "plumbing"
  • Advanced technical skills — e.g., design and management of APIs
  • Architectural skills — e.g., integration infrastructure rationalization and federation
  • Organizational skills — e.g., integration center of excellence (COE)
  • Sourcing skills — e.g., choosing between integration software, platform as a service (PaaS) and outsourcing

Most companies are only well-skilled in about one-third of the 26 integration competencies required to meet expanding requirements (see "2013 Strategic Road Map for Integration"). Many companies lack a clear understanding of the basic choices available for implementing integration (see "How to Identify the Right Basic Approach for Your Application Integration Project"). Such knowledge gaps will become inhibitors to successful pace layering if they prevent companies from adopting applications "on demand."

To be successful at pace-layered application strategies, companies should assess the gap between their expanding requirements and their existing capabilities in integration. However, many companies will focus on technical competencies at the expense of architectural, organizational and sourcing competencies. As more lines of business (LOBs) assume more responsibility for sourcing applications, this creates a tension between the roles of central IT and the LOBs in performing integration. A cross-organizational COE can help establish solution patterns and architectural guidelines and maintain best practices around sourcing for integration (see "Staff Your ICC Correctly to Increase Application Integration Project Success").

Recommendations:

  • Reassess your portfolio of basic integration skills, identifying gaps between existing integration competencies and those required to support your pace-layered application strategy.
  • Develop the capability to integrate on demand as the portfolio evolves and the use of the APIs you publish changes.
  • Establish well-defined integration roles and responsibilities across central IT and LOBs.

Innovative, differentiating applications demand new deployment options and functionality regrouping, creating challenges for directors of integration

Companies are adopting more SaaS, doubling during the next few years from $16 billion to $32 billion of spending on SaaS (see "Public Cloud Services Forecast"). They are also adopting more devices for use in enterprise IT. Companies that use pace-layered application strategies are more likely to leverage these alternative delivery models to create systems of innovation — supporting characteristics such as rapid deployment, higher levels of productivity and faster rates of change — as a complement to existing systems of record. The increased adoption of cloud and mobile apps creates new challenges for IT leaders responsible for integration, many of whom are competent at internal application-to-integration (A2A) integration, but less capable at cloud services or mobile integration. Most mobile applications will be enabled by an increasingly rich set of server APIs to access data and functionality that will frequently sit in the systems of record.

For example, although integrating cloud-based functionality such as SaaS often involves many of the same basic challenges as integrating on-premises applications — e.g., solving data synchronization or multistep integration problems — it often involves new challenges such as security or linking to new and complex cloud APIs. You may need to invest in new, additional integration skills and technology to address cloud services integration (see "Refresh Your Practices, Governance and Technologies to Tackle Cloud Services Integration").

Another consequence of a pace-layered application strategy is that you may be reusing important application interfaces against systems of record more frequently by a wide variety of rapidly changing systems of innovation — for example, to expose internal system of record data, such as product information or inventory levels, to external business partners via composite or mobile applications. This will increase the importance of carefully designed application interfaces to accommodate change and, where appropriate, to take advantage of advanced approaches to integration including canonicals.

Mobile devices introduce additional challenges for integration because of diverse mobile platforms and mobile device intermittent connectivity over unreliable communications. The IT organization must consider new skills and technology to address mobile integration (see "Adopt Web Streaming to Enable Messaging for Mobile and Browser-Based Applications").

Recommendation:

  • Strengthen your integration competencies in cloud services integration, API management and mobile devices.

Integrating rapidly changing, multienterprise and Nexus of Forces applications with slowly changing systems of records will proliferate sets of APIs that must be carefully managed

Systems of record don't change much — but the use of the data they contain and the functionality they encapsulate does. Internal users and external partners might not like a dated user interface, and the availability of key functionality on a mobile device might make a lot of positive difference in the way they get their jobs done and advance specific corporate processes. However, a lot of the functionality and data sitting in today's applications will be needed in tomorrow's applications. It just needs to be partitioned in different, smaller chunks, to be used according to different business logic and to be presented differently on different devices.

APIs defined over systems of record will support this change. In addition, many applications, composite applications and mobile apps will come from outside the control of central IT, and the way APIs will serve them will be key to their success. APIs will be designed initially to serve specific application needs, but they will often be used by many within the company firewall or outside it. Especially in this latter case, they will be used for purposes they might not have originally been designed for, and they will evolve in unexpected ways. APIs that were initially designed together for one use will often be consumed in substantially different ways by different consumers and from different locations.

Application services governance (ASG) focuses on APIs, and how to move them through their life cycles in ways that serve companies best, according to business opportunities. This includes API discovery (via registry/repository) and the definition of a number of policies (i.e., to design or to use services, including security). It's not a new discipline — before a critical mass of mobile apps started demanding interaction with server APIs, service-oriented architectures (SOAs) began forcing services to be shared among (largely internal) applications. So ASG is a mix of mature and proven SOA governance with the new and changing needs of rapidly evolving APIs (see "Govern Your Services and Manage Your APIs With Application Services Governance").

Most IT departments have done too little to effectively develop APIs and services since SOA started more than 15 years ago. However, pace-layering strategies will accelerate the combination of fast-changing application consumption of APIs with slow-changing systems of record, which will make the need for ASG more acute. ASG can be an effective focus point for collaboration among development groups of systems of innovation — often, LOBs that don't have an integration competency center (ICC) and development groups of systems of records (central IT often has an ICC). A pace-layered application strategy demands that this change. IT certainly won't be able to execute fully and deliver measurable benefits if the APIs are not properly integrated, or if they lose their effectiveness (i.e., they don't remain right) as time goes by.

Recommendation:

  • Define an ASG road map to support a pace-layered application strategy and develop APIs through their life cycle capabilities in a way that serves your company best.

The impact of the Nexus of Forces and pace-layering strategies will challenge the integration project fulfillment capacity of many IT organizations and LOBs

The Nexus of Forces (cloud, social, mobile and information; see "Examining the Depth of the Nexus of Forces") is creating an acute challenge for companies that must invest more in their integration skills to succeed. Coupled with a pace-layered application strategy, it will create an increased integration project workload. However, addressing these expanding integration requirements with existing internal IT resources will sometimes be beyond the capabilities of some companies, which may seek alternatives to traditional third-party middleware approaches to integration. Two viable alternatives include embedded and outsourced integration.

Embedded integration (see "Examining the Embedded Multienterprise Integration Market") involves a provider bundling or embedding integration capabilities directly into its IT solutions, such as an application. For example, Oracle's Application Integration Architecture (AIA) — a solution bundled with Oracle Fusion Middleware — can, in some cases, substantially reduce the effort required to implement certain kinds of integration projects ("Oracle Application Integration Architecture (AIA): Have the PIPs Gone Pop?" [Note: This document has been archived; some of its content may not reflect current conditions.]).

In another example, companies such as E2open, e-Builder and IBM now offer some form of integration brokerage in conjunction with B2B networks as a way to help their customers accelerate B2B integration project time-to-deployment as an extension of their application portfolios (see "Proliferation of Multienterprise Business Process Solutions Offers Many Benefits"). Such embedded solutions can simplify vendor management and accelerate integration project time-to-deployment, although such approaches may fall short of requirements for demanding integration projects that go beyond the preconfigured capabilities offered in an embedded integration solution.

For organizations that do not want to do integration in-house or consume embedded integration technology, outsourcing project implementation and management is a viable option (see "Integration Brokerage Offers Intermediation for Cloud Services Brokerage and B2B E-Commerce"). Although many companies may have a relatively competent approach to internal A2A integration projects, some of these companies are acutely challenged by relatively new skills and technologies that are required to do cloud services integration and new types of B2B/e-commerce. Outsourcing can often help companies avoid big investments in new integration skills and technology, reduce upfront costs (because no software licenses are required), and accelerate integration project time-to-deployment.

Companies that face increasingly complex integration challenges as a consequence of adopting a pace-layered application strategy should focus not only on the gaps in their technical integration capabilities, but also on gaps in their integration sourcing capabilities. Often a hybrid integration sourcing strategy — for example, leveraging in-house resources for A2A projects and leveraging integration brokerage for B2B projects — can be an effective way to maximize ROI with limited IT resources.

Recommendation:

  • Define an explicit integration sourcing strategy for your pace-layered application strategy, including evaluating embedded or outsourced approaches.

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