Last week, we recognized the successful implementation of SOA at British American Tobacco. In a recent issue of Optimize Magazine, Kevin Poulter, BAT's Application Development Manager, also discusses his perspectiove on a new concept called "applistructure." He defines it as "the merger of enterprise-application and infrastructure technology."
The objective is "to shift time and money toward a strategic, next-generation infrastructure," he notes. In order to be successful in this endeavor, Poulter believes that are five key tasks that must be accomplished (using corresponding technologies and services):
Continuously cut the cost of IT: Rather than thinking that IT budgets must increase yearly—regardless of value or deliverable to the enterprise—companies should deliver a given value at ever-declining costs. An applistructure provider must help its customers cut the cost of IT.
Deliver secure and reliable service levels: Because applistructure will become the key fabric linking and managing a company's business processes, it must deliver both security and high service levels... Applistructure will require integration at both the process and data levels with customers and suppliers. It must deliver high availability, service-based management, and automated auditing.
Permit upgrades and product enhancements on the fly: One of IT's biggest challenges is to remain current with a wide array of products and technologies... Though best practices decrease complexity and problems, sellers have done little to make their products easier to install and upgrade... To change the status quo, vendors must deliver rational, regular upgrade cycles; multistrategy releases; segmented, modular releases and upgrades; and installation and upgrade automation.
Let different technology providers plug and play seamlessly: The lack of universality has created a morass of integration techniques, resulting in excessive cost and inflexibility... Existing Internet protocols aid simple communications and network-transport services, but they've created a false sense of security about the complexity that lies ahead for plug-and-play technology. The issue that technologists tend to ignore is semantics, which define the business language and relationships between companies... For plug-and-play integration, an applistructure must deliver semantic and services definitions, services management, an integration bus, and automatic configuration capabilities.
Permit a fast reconfiguration of business processes: New technologies and approaches are needed to permit reconfiguration. One promising approach is composite applications. SOAs, graphical, model-based programming, business-process implementation tools, and the ability to span multiple products and processes are needed.
As Poulter concludes, "CIOs face many decisions regarding applistructure. One way to smooth the transition is to develop an applistructure-investment map. Knowing that applistructure will develop in the next three to five years, technology buyers should look at their long-range IT plans and identify areas of potential investment and overlap in their current technology landscape. For the two dozen components of applistructure, an applistructure map would identify the providers of each technology and indicate how a company's IT projects and technology-capital expenditures will align with the delivery schedule of applistructure. The goal is to quarantine technology providers that would no longer be necessary because of overlap with the offerings of a major applistructure provider."