Services Everywhere and Everything Agile

12th October 2018

We live in exciting times and it’s sometimes hard to keep pace with the changes in technology and how they can positively impact your business. Clarity of vision and strategy is a hard won battle and there are some really important concepts that need to be understood to be successful. I created a maturity model several years ago to reflect the evolution of the architecture and operation of IT applications in line with what cloud has to offer. The industry label for this has emerged as ‘Cloud Native’. I suspect if I asked many people what it means I would get different answers; a customer of mine said it best when he said “It means the application was born in the cloud, rather than being moved or migrated to the cloud”.

The architecture principles in the cloud are very different. Being Cloud Native allows the application architecture to adhere to the design principles as defined by the cloud provider and this will result in a much better operational and performance outcome. Process changes to the development and operations teams can support faster and continuous application development cycles (DevOps) which blends well with designing things in new ways. The architecture of the applications also needs to become more service oriented and granular. They need application interfaces so they may be reused and integrated with other services; this approach is labelled Micro Services and relates to how application investments can support a more ‘agile digital business’.

Recap of the key terms and topics:

  • Cloud Native – how we design applications for the cloud
  • DevOps – how we develop and operate for agility
  • Micro Services – how we architect applications for reuse and integration
  • Agile Digital Business – how we create compelling business services faster

Agile digital business reflects an enhanced and integrated service experience an organisation offers to its customers and partners at a competitive performance. Achieving the gold star here is incredibly challenging, especially for larger organisations, and relies on becoming service driven top to bottom with agility throughout. From a business perspective, services should reflect what customers and partners consume and directly relate to revenue and performance. The services should be able to be changed quickly to reflect market demands without undue cost, risk and time – service agility.

From a technology perspective, the acid test for achieving success is when ‘off the shelf’ micro services can be assembled in different ways to create new business services (reuse rather than reinvent). Another advantage with micro services comes when you can buy them instead of building your own; leveraging a service provider’s (or partner’s) investment will provide a more diverse and reusable portfolio with which new business service demands can be met – quicker, and more often than not, cheaper.

The picture here shows micro services in the middle; this is very similar to a view in another article which had DevOps in the middle. They are both correct – DevOps should align development and operations so that services become operational quickly and reliably. The development strategy, however, should be to architect for micro services and this is far removed from the legacy past of developers creating large monolithic products for a single business need. Applying DevOps approaches combined with a Cloud Native and Micro Service Architecture should, in most cases, be the default strategy for new application investment.

Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all investing heavily in delivering Cloud Native Micro Services to support this strategy, which are also focused in key business opportunity areas, such that innovators can reuse and get to market quickly.

The challenge for most organisations is to align the changes required in order to be effective and competitive in the future, unlock your legacy operating model and integration dependencies on legacy applications while keeping the business running. It is hard for many to know where to start which is why I wrote the blueprint for cloud transformation. Supporting this blueprint are service offers and related transformation models that help to establish that elusive starting point followed by a viable strategic plan and associated transformation work packages. If you are facing these challenges and you need help or just want to talk it through, please contact us.