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The Big Shift: From Integration & Messaging to Connectivity & Collaboration

Chet Kapoor
Jun 26, 2012

Mobile, Social, and cloud computing are driving huge changes in how enterprises connect and engage with their customers and employees. This changes the way information technology (IT) needs to work.

There’s a shift underway in enterprises and even in government agencies from a world of messaging platforms to collaboration platforms - platforms for real-time connectivity and collaboration across boundaries and firewalls that enable machine-to-machine, person-to-person, B2B, and B2C interactions and transactions.

Social networking concepts and the growing apps economy are at the heart of this transformation.

From integration to collaboration

The integration market is something I’ve known well. I was at Active Software/Webmethods when EAI was created and subsequently joined BEA and ran the integration business. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) is a term coined by Gartner in 1998, and formed with Tibco, Active Software, Vitria, and others. As defined by Gartner, EAI is “the unrestricted sharing of data and business processes among any connected application or data sources in the enterprise.”

Today the combined forces of social, mobile, and cloud computing are driving a change in how enterprises interact with employees, customers and partners and also forcing a redefinition of how enterprises expose their systems and services. EAI no longer fits the bill. For businesses, the key change agents are the “consumerization of IT,” the shift of user interaction from the core to the “edge of the enterprise”, and the growth and popularity of social and business networks.

The consumerization of IT

The “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend of employees bringing personally-owned mobile devices to their places of work is a hot topic in IT departments across the globe and is just the tip of the iceberg for the consumerization of IT.

People are connected to one another through social networks, through our cars, through the books we read, the music we download, and more. Employees expect the same level of connectivity and experience with their business apps and devices as with their personal apps and devices. In addition to devices, all kinds of consumer technologies are being used in the workplace, including consumer-inspired social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Shift of user interaction to the edge of the enterprise

The most important shift may be the shift and expansion of an enterprise’s interaction with its customers away from the core of the enterprise – away from 100% dependence on the legacy and internal systems-of-record and towards the consumer.

Consumers interact with businesses through social and business networks, and through apps (which may or may not have been built by the enterprise). Business is often done on the buyer’s device.

The challenge is no longer to connect the data sources within the enterprise (as is the definition of EAI), but to connect data sources from a myriad of places – both inside and outside the enterprise. Enterprises are challenged with injecting social functionality into their business; challenged to connect and make effective use of the data available from social interactions and networks; to deliver information in new ways that fully utilize the power of mobile and web-based technologies. They need to figure out how to innovate at the edge; how to have their services adopted in apps being built by a global, innovative community of developers.

Enterprise IT working in the Web model

How are these trends shifting IT and what are successful enterprises doing to leverage them? Forward-thinking enterprises are recognizing that enterprise users (employees, partners, and customers) are consumers who have come to expect their experiences with an enterprise to be as engaging as their other experiences on the Web.

Leading organizations are bringing Web 2.0 tools and the successes in innovation, knowledge accumulation, and collaboration inside - creating “Enterprise 2.0.” They’re recognizing that Web strategies allow for information to flow freely, for high uptime, easy access for people, and secured data. 

Enterprises and government agencies alike recognize that to be dynamic, they need to build collaborative platforms and expose systems and information as APIs.

Look at Amazon, one of the early disruptors and successes as a Web business and open platform. About 10 years ago Jeff Bezos mandated that all Amazon teams were to expose their data and functionality through service interfaces. This transformed Amazon internally and gave birth to many familiar services including the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, the Amazon Elastic MapReduce, the Amazon Relational Database Service, and many more.

EBay’s X.commerce platform is another great example of the shift to APIs and the Web and away from traditional EAI. X.commerce is designed to help sellers reach buyers where they shop today – online and on millions of mobile devices.

Netflix has been phenomenally successful with a Web and API-based strategy. Through the API strategy and architecture, they get to hundreds of devices and drove rapid innovation around their API and service.

Solving today’s challenges with today’s tools

Yesterday’s technologies (brokers, message buses, adapters, transformation engines, etc.) were great at solving yesterday’s problems of high-fidelity LAN-based transactions, of getting proprietary systems to interoperate, and of converting between application-specific and common formats.

But beware of the purveyors of yesterday's technology who wrap their old tools in a new wrapper in an effort to try to solve today's problems with them.

Today the challenges, and opportunities are different. Enterprises need to figure out how to expose systems to be easily consumed by third-party applications in a secure and trusted way; need to reach many different devices; need to figure out how to drastically reduce the time and cost of working with their systems and improve the customer experience.

Amazon, EBay, Netflix, and many other successful Web companies are solving today’s set of challenges with today’s technologies. They are not leading with “integration”; they’re not using EAI technologies. They’re not deploying propriety broker or queuing technologies. They’re not creating services and leaving it up to consumers to figure out a way to connect. They’re not building adapters to get systems to talk to each other.

Instead, enterprise IT is figuring out how to make systems and services available as an API. We see all kinds of successful API initiatives. There are those internal to companies, initiatives with strategic partners, with customers, and the well-known open API initiative that’s driving innovation for companies like Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook.

To meet new challenges, successful enterprise IT is taking advantage of Internet technologies and protocols like HTTP and HTTPS. They’re building natively for the Web using REST, XML, JSON, and OAuth.

In short, enterprises that jettison traditional EAI in favor of a web-based approach don't just save money by simplifying their infrastructure - they see benefits across the organization. By adopting the same tools and techniques used on the consumer-driven Internet, they are positioning themselves to grow and adapt just as fast as the consumer-driven Internet.

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