Software AG CTO: diving deep into digital architectures

Data analytics and Internet of Things company Software AG has used its 2017 ‘Innovation Tour’ series to detail its technology roadmap and explain its wider notion of what it calls smart applications in the new era of cloud and connected software.

Digital business platforms

Software AG chief technology officer Dr Wolfram Jost is understood to be the strategic brain behind much of what the firm is doing down at the deeper data layer.

“Executing digital business requires a digital business platform,” asserted Jost, at the firm’s Chicago 2017 tour keynote presentation. “The ERP systems of old are not the innovation enablers for digital transformation — they are too slow, too complex and too cumbersome to change to serve the new business models that are emerging in the digital age.”

All existing IT resources need to be connected to a firm’s new digital business platform says Jost – it is a combination of people, process and now ‘things’ (as in IoT things).

Jost suggests that whatever vertical a firm operates in, at some stage of its move to digital transformation it must necessarily consider, conquer, embrace and develop capabilities for five key steps which effectively map out the journey towards digital business:

  1. Business process analysis – plus business strategy & planning.
  2. Analytics – with streaming data analytics & operational intelligence.
  3. Process – the ability to start building dynamic applications
  4. Integration – including API management
  5. In memory data – and In Memory Data Grid (IMDG) technolgies

Architectures are changing

As we move out of the client-server era of yesteryear, we have to appreciate the adoption of new type of decentralised technology architectures.

“Today in the digital world we are working towards being able to engineer an event-driven architecture. Our digital platform is fully based upon an event driven and microservices based architecture,” said Jost. “But (and there is always a but) we to develop digital applications you need both caching and storage — and we have that capability through our acquisition of Terracotta.”

When Jost talks about microservices he does heed that you need to be very careful if you think that EVERY element of IT needs to decoupled into the granularity of microservices. Breaking it down, we will see firms understanding the difference between macro-, mini- and (ultimately) micro-services… depending upon the level of agility and flexibility that is needed.

“The business logic and semantics of microservices is complex, so firms will need to know how much of each macro- mini- and micro-services they need to implement. The end-to-end process logic and APIs used to communicate through these services must rest upon a platform to be able to operate business logic through these services,” said Jost. “So service architecture needs a PaaS suite and this is what Software AG delivers.”

Looking forward, Jost says it is better to define the architecture  a customer wishes to implement BEFORE it starts to implement its chosen set of services. this is all part of the customer journey analysis process.

Where this takes us in the future is a place where integration is no longer just a role for software application developers. This is the world of so-called citizen integrators and Software AG says it is providing precisely these tools for this future trend… even down to the level of API management, there are citizen, ad hoc and power users all touching this aspect of IT.

Deep API realities

In terms of API management, Software AG’s webMethods tools provide API cataloging (for API definition & to apply runtime governance policies), API gateway (to protect APIs from unregistered usage) and a API portal functionality (to document usage and look after testing and community collaboration).

But… ultimately, you can have the best APIs, but unless you have good business logic there is no point in trying to apply these tools whether developer or citizen developer.

In the future world of multi-channel applications we will see an increasing amount of means for users to interact with applications, so this will impact the way we manage the back end of our IT architectures. As we further build composite applications we will similarly need API mediation tools  to integrate deeper level logic to upper level APIs.

Looking ahead, Software AG’s Jost insists that API management is not about to replace integration technology any time soon. APIs are contracts between providers and consumers of an IT resource… and integration technology should be seen as something responsible for managing integration logic. Jost says that in fact, APIs and integration are two sides of the same coin.

Software AG has also used its Innovation Tour to announce a number of new product updates, which the Computer Weekly Developer Network will cover separately.