Future-proofing the application infrastructure

SOA, SaaS, and enterprise modernization - they're all about the best approaches to building a cost efficient application infrastructure that will sustain a company today and in the future, says WebLayers Jaimin Patel.

Commentary--There’s no shortage of discussions around service oriented architectures (SOA), Software as a Service (SAAS) and enterprise modernization. Regardless of the catchphrase du jour, the heart of these conversations is really about the best approaches to building a cost efficient application infrastructure that will sustain a company today and in the future.

With this in mind, there are three critical requirements for building a successful application infrastructure that will always transcend the latest buzzwords. These three criteria are visibility, scalability and ability to execute that translate to economic benefits and risk mitigation.

Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find an IT professional who wouldn’t subscribe to having already prioritized these attributes as part of the application infrastructure strategy. However, what has shifted is the way that that governance is rooted in these aspects to better manage the application infrastructure.

Think about it.

We transact business in a global economy. We hire overseas developers to reduce costs. We are constantly monitoring our actions and watching the actions of others in the spirit of security, compliance and productivity.

To successfully sustain and grow our businesses requires a shift in the IT infrastructure. This isn’t to imply that it requires an added layer of complexity. Rather, it’s about the way that we use our existing technology and human capital so that IT supports the business while prioritizing the needs of the customer.

More specifically, here’s how these three factors are changing in the infrastructure.

Visibility
This can be a broad and sweeping term with regard to the application infrastructure so for further clarification, the shift in increasing visibility is more about transparency in the way that software is designed and developed. For example, consider the business and technical implications of erroneous code or code that doesn’t meet your internal policies and best practices, especially if it is written overseas. Having greater visibility into the development processes could affect change as the code is being written as opposed to after it’s returned back to the client. Increasing visibility can be accomplished by automating many of the processes in the software development lifecycle while also helping to accelerate projects and reduce manual errors.

Scalability
One could argue that the foundation of the application infrastructure is about scalability and sustainability to mitigate business risks throughout the company. This is why many organizations select standards-based technology knowing that it will support future growth and change. Some examples of that change include mergers and acquisitions, expansion and diversification. While standards-based development is a tried and true approach, it doesn’t always fully accommodate these business changes. Even when open standards dominate the application infrastructure, integration is still a challenge. Recognizing this issue has led to the adoption of SOA but this approach can oftentimes meet a brick wall without proper governance.

Governance
It can help streamline the integration by instituting a set of policies that ensure the project doesn’t get too far along its path if it doesn’t abide by requirements and guidelines established by the business. As part of the larger application infrastructure strategy and design, governance is transitioning from being optional to a business requirement. In fact, Gartner’s recent magic quadrant on integrated SOA governance technology pointed to the fact that the recession and need for cost optimization, combined with the market’s need for SOA and the cover your back mentality has caused companies to rethink the importance they give to SOA governance and related technologies.

Ability to execute
Now more than ever, companies need to be able to withstand the scrutiny of investors, employees, customers, partners, and regulators. While the ownership of the application infrastructure may reside within IT, the responsibility for its success extends beyond IT to the organization’s business executives. Obviously, without the proper business and technology mechanisms in place, an organization is at greater risk of negligence. Yet the terms compliance and governance harbor a slightly negative and widely unwarranted connotation.

In many instances, this negative view stems from a fear that the processes that are required to ensure adherence to either government or company mandates will drag down IT resources in terms of productivity and costs. Not to mention the uncomfortable feeling among developers that every transaction is being monitored and assessed.

The software development and design phase is one of the most critical parts in ensuring a successful execution of strategy. If the early part of an application lifecycle is not carefully mapped out, there will be negative repercussions as the application moves along in its lifecycle resulting in higher costs and lower customer satisfaction. One way to avoid this is by putting controls in place at the very beginning to ensure greater efficiency without hindering progress or fostering a big brother environment.

As this shift becomes a greater priority, it’s important for IT managers to recognize the delicate balance between the technology and the culture. The goal is to make sure that developers don’t feel threatened by new approaches and that they are actually reducing a learning curve and accelerating project completion.

As new technologies are introduced, or perhaps when older approaches get new labels, a sustainable application infrastructure will always take into account the need for visibility, scalability and total cost of ownership. These factors are what will lead to mitigating risk and achieving economic benefits.

biography
Jaimin Patel is Director of Business Development at WebLayers.