Today’s enterprise application ecosystems have evolved over an extended period of time, often resulting in fragmented, disjointed application portfolios and systems. IT is responsible for maintenance of existing business applications, functionality and infrastructure that supports current daily operations while at the same time must address the evolution of future business needs. In order to meet timelines and business initiatives quickly while managing resource contention and financial constraints, solutions may be cobbled together. Delivery managers are under great pressure to deliver on business needs or face becoming irrelevant.
As the velocity of change increases IT organizations must embrace change. To understand this change all one needs to look at is Facebook, Google and Apple. Social media, data and mobile applications are changing the way we develop and maintain relationships in our personal lives and is now driving the way businesses deliver products, services and information. New collaborative ecosystems that drive agility are the norm in modern consumer applications. Applications seamlessly connect to other applications to provide new applications. For example, take Google Maps, a standalone user application that also provides an interface allowing other developers to leverage the platform to create new location-based applications. Applications are built upon other applications creating a web of applications called ‘mashups.’
Key enablers of mashups include infrastructure commoditization, service standardization, service reuse and outsourcing. All of this allows for the efficiencies of scale to be realized and ultimately exploited. At the foundation are cloud infrastructure providers like Amazon and Rackspace. When Amazon first introduced its cloud platform, the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), in August of 2006, I immediately realized this was a game changer. While this aspect of the new technology paradigm is not as consumer recognizable as Android or the iPhone, it is one of the key technology enablers of today’s app centric world.
Cloud services enable small innovative startups access to world-class infrastructure and platform scalability without having to invest in infrastructure. If you have an idea you can build it, deploy it and scale it on demand only paying for what you use. If you have spikes in usage, say, during business hours, you only pay for the resources you actually use. In a typical datacenter maximizing hardware utilization is a difficult challenge. Infrastructure must be in place to handle peak loads but sits underutilized during non-peak hours consuming datacenter power and space. In addition, if you own it you have to maintain it, manage it and eventually replace it at end of life. With cloud service providers you no longer need to maintain a physical data center.
Expectations of agility, flexibility and speed of delivery is driven by how pervasive this new technology has become in our personal lives. These new platforms are fun and cool but most importantly they are productive. We use these new app driven devices in our personal lives and eventually business will demand IT to deliver to the same standards. For example take the RIM Blackberry and Apple iPhone. Five years ago when the first iPhone was rolled out IT was hesitant to support the iPhone and the Blackberry was king.
Similarly look at the new iPad and Android tablets. Microsoft rules the desktop but how much longer will the desktop be the prevailing platform? On a side note, I find it interesting how we have spent the better part of the last 20 years moving off the mainframe and now we are moving back to the client. The backend architectures are not the same but paradigms are similar.
Ultimately, IT must evolve and embrace this new reality because at the end of the day business survival likely is very dependent on delivering technology services to clients, service providers and partners. If in house IT cannot enable business innovation, business will look to external partners that effectively enable business agility.