Think Big: Composable Enterprises and the Need For Open Architecture

As we move from traditional IT to a world of services, we are forced to rethink IT services in all layers of the stack, from infrastructure to higher order business functions. As enterprise IT moves to a service dominated world, open architecture becomes a critical part of IT thinking. In this post, I will briefly look at the importance of open architecture in modern IT.

The Composable Enterprise

Before I joined Red Hat, as an analyst watching the cloud computing space, we used the Services Ocean model to help our clients understand the emergence of modern IT. This model holds that enterprise IT uses infrastructure services to offer platform services to their developers who, in turn, build higher order services for consumption by their business users. The workflow from lower level IT tasks to developer tasks only involves APIs and higher order services (which may also include off the shelf services from SaaS providers) are exposed both through APIs and UI. Business users consume these services using either the provided UI or APIs to consume the service through an interface they are comfortable with–third party apps in the traditional sense of definition. With BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOA (Bring Your Own App) gaining significant traction among enterprise users, APIs for higher order services are a requirement in modern IT.

A similar message about the changing face of the enterprise was eloquently conveyed by Jonathan Murray, CTO of Warner Music Group, in The Composable Enterprise Model. I strongly urge you to read his entire post to fully grasp where modern enterprise IT is heading in the coming years. I like the term “The Composable Enterprise” better than “Services Ocean Model” and I am going to stick with the term in my conversations going forward. I also hope that the term becomes an industry standard for defining modern enterprise IT.

Building Blocks of a Composable Enterprise

The key to building a composable enterprise is an underlying aspect of the platform that offers the agility and flexibility needed for IT to custom build platforms suitable for their organization. It is time we understand that the needs of different organizations are diverse and the days of vendors dictating customer needs are long gone. Open Source and the services economy unleashed by cloud computing has completely transformed the landscape giving enterprises the leverage to have an IT platform that completely matches their organizational needs.

The underlying platform for a composable enterprise has two key requirements:

  • Agility
  • Modularity

Embracing the cloud computing model offers the agility needed by the underlying platform. Open Source and modular architecture of the platform components helps IT build custom platforms for their organization.

The agility offered by the cloud model allows IT to operate at the speed of the business. Some cloud vendors are content with enabling IT to operate efficiently at the speed of their business users. I believe IT vendors can offer much more to the enterprises than an iterative improvement in IT performance.

Rapid Innovation Via Open Architecture

The first generation platform vendors helped IT operate at the speed of business by embracing the cloud model and offering a standardized set of components with limited customization. With the industry maturing, we are now seeing platform offerings making IT agile and able to operate at the speed of business–all while offering the flexibility to help IT innovate beyond just being faster. The newer platforms help IT rapidly create powerful enterprise platforms which help their business users innovate at levels that we could not have imagined before.

These second generation platforms are usually open source and implement an open architecture that reduces IT’s reliance on the platform vendors for innovation. An open architecture offers IT the flexibility to meet the unique needs of their business users by providing a platform that helps business users innovate rapidly. IT is not dependent on the whims and fancies of platform vendors to support any language, application server, database, or third party services. With standardized, powerful packaging tools like OpenShift Cartridges, IT is ready to meet the innovation needs of their business users.

Conclusion

Organizations should not stop with improving the efficiency of their IT by embracing cloud computing. To compete in a fast changing economy driven by rapid technological innovation, they need to Think Big. Just a rapid acceleration of their IT processes is not enough. They also need the flexibility to build powerful platforms that open up opportunities for their business users to innovate on the go. Only a cloud platform with an open architecture frees up IT to build such a platform. As an enterprise CIO, you should stop thinking iteratively and think big. Just embracing cloud computing is not a solution. A cloud platform with an open architecture helps you to not just think big but also execute on the vision rapidly.

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