How enterprises can build a digital business platform with pervasive integration

Every line of business must have access to the digital tools needed to innovate at the edge.

By Andy Oram
December 12, 2017
One of Kusama's first Mirrored Rooms One of Kusama's first Mirrored Rooms (source: Helsinki Art Museum on Wikimedia Commons)

Every company is now a software company. Digital transformation allows even large enterprises to adapt to changes in markets and customers at lightning speed, responding with new products, new processes, and new business models. Digital transformation doesn’t just require new technology; it requires a new, more agile mindset. Every line of business must have access to the digital tools needed to innovate at the edge, and it’s the job of the core IT team to provide them.

Digital transformation relies on connecting data and systems, people and processes. Integration technologies have traditionally formed the nervous system of a large enterprise, connecting systems and moving data. But the human nervous system doesn’t just connect and sense; it also acts on data in real time. A digital business technology platform augments the intelligence of a digital business by building on its ability to connect and sense, to learn and act automatically, and enables the next stage of your digital transformation. Unlike a biological nervous system, an enterprise’s digital business technology platform will reach beyond the traditional boundaries of the business to run in the cloud, or on devices at the edge or involving the Internet of Things (IoT).

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A digital business platform will build on traditional integration technologies, extending them to deal with microservices, serverless architectures, event-driven architectures, machine learning, and edge intelligence. Agile development methodologies, DevOps processes, bimodal IT, and other cultural changes are pieces in a digital business jigsaw.

Every industry sector faces different business challenges, and will therefore emphasize different aspects of a digital business platform.

Manufacturing, transportation, utilities, and other industries with large capital investments need to maximize the value of their infrastructures and improve operational efficiency. Adding intelligence at the edge so IoT devices can sense and act locally will be an essential component of a digital business platform in these sectors.

Banks and telecommunications companies want to redefine their relationships with their customers, creating the kind of seamless, omnichannel environments at which digital retailers have excelled. Personalizing interactions with customers will require digital businesses to combine machine learning models with real-time streaming data.

Retailers and travel companies, which must provide both a personalized customer experience and efficient delivery or transport, face both of these challenges. Every enterprise wants to reduce costs and increase the speed of innovation. Every enterprise needs to make faster and better decisions with machine learning and real-time analytics. A robust digital business platform can support these goals.

A hybrid integration platform is key

Gartner has defined “pervasive integration” as the integration of on-premise and cloud applications and data sources, business partners, clients, mobile apps, social networks, and IoT devices to enable organizations to pursue digital business.

The foundation of a digital business platform is a hybrid integration platform (HIP) that meets the organization’s pervasive integration needs by supporting different types of users, from integration specialists to business users and modern app developers, and diverse deployment models: on-premises, cloud, mobile, and edge devices for the IoT.

Two distinct kinds of software development take place in a HIP: core IT, which encompasses the kind of data center activities now associated with software development in most organizations, and edge IT, which encompasses innovation by business users to quickly meet new needs for information.

Core integration needs

Data centers that are currently the core of IT in companies will take on a new role, building applications in the cloud or on-premises, deploy them to container-based platforms, and exposing them to the rest of the business in the form of microservices providing access through APIs.

Because all access to data and corporate services will be through the APIs developed in-house, the API development teams require management across the full life cycle of creation, publishing, operations, and maintenance. Services supporting such development are called integration platform as a service (iPaaS). These services enforce the policies defined by the enterprise’s shared cloud governance team and ensure best practices across the life cycle.

Edge integration needs

Innovation can also happen among the business users in the organization. Some will build new applications on top of the APIs provided by the core IT department. Services facilitating such development at the edge are called application platform as a service (aPaaS). Business users can also create new integration flows by combining core IT services, supported by integration service as a service (iSaaS) products. These allow business users with no coding skills to integrate data between various cloud services.

The IoT introduces special requirements because it sometimes requires real-time decision-making that cannot be relegated to the cloud. Two or more tiers of processing may therefore take place: after doing real-time work at the edges, an IoT integration gateway can filter and aggregate data from the sensors and send relevant information back to a private datacenter or public cloud.

To learn more about how pervasive integration provides a framework for a digital business platform, get the free ebook “Integration and the Path to Becoming a Digital Business.”

This post is part of a collaboration between O’Reilly and TIBCO. See our statement of editorial independence.

Post topics: Data