Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The path forward – checking out your plans for SOA adoption!

NonStop systems continue to play a pivotal role when it comes to mission-critical transaction processing and yet, even as the forecasts for IT spending suggest only modest growth in 2013, its important NonStop users pursue strategies for better integration as part of their modernization programs.

As a writer I scan many publications and one of my favorite publications is the RustReport produced in Australia by Len Rust, the former head of IDC in Australia, the industry analyst arm of IDG.  IDG also included the publications ComputerWorld, Network World and CIO. In the current issue of RustReport there is a reference to a Gartner press release of November 15, 2012, “Worldwide Enterprise IT Spending is Forecast to Grow 2.5 Percent in 2013”. In short, Gartner in all its wisdom is forecasting that there will be “‘scant growth’ in enterprise IT budgets during 2013”.

Gartner research director, Kenneth Brant, then went on to explain how, in the eyes of this prestigious firm, “the global economic outlook has deteriorated in 2012, leading to scant overall growth in enterprise IT spending”. Like nearly everyone else in IT, it’s difficult to find a Gartner comment that’s not apropos for any occasion; be it a report or a PowerPoint presentation, there’s always a supporting comment from Gartner to be found. But seriously! It’s only come to the attention of Garter, as this year winds down, that IT spending hasn’t been to levels previously seen and that yes, within 2013, we can expect much the same?

However, the RustReport commentary does close with an observation of importance for us all and well worth considering. “
IT departments must strive to modernize and increase service levels without increasing resources,” the report acknowledges. “The need for greater efficiency and productivity gains in industries operating under severe fiscal constraints can also create opportunities for disruptive IT innovation and for the displacement of incumbent IT market leaders.” And seriously, it is in times of downturn where new technologies and architectures first see the light of day as business seeks approaches that reduce costs.

Last year I wrote a feature that was published in the May – June, 2011, issue of the Connection, “Façade - Architecture! One way to avoid scarring as we soar into the clouds!” In that feature I quoted Dr. Richard Hackathorn of Bolder Technology, Inc., an industry consultant and founder of MicroDecisionware, Inc., who almost two decades ago explained how “a ‘Legacy System’ is any information system that has become critical to operating your business … regardless of its technology or age. Its interruption would cause significant impacts on your bottom-line.” This is a development on the much earlier proclamation by one Gartner analyst I heard who suggested that in the very instant a new systems is deployed live, in production, it should be considered legacy.

The point here is unmistakable. IT will always be awash with legacy applications and systems and they will be at the very heart of operations critical to the business, and should the current economic downturn follow previous trends, it will be these legacy applications and systems that will factor into whatever disruptive IT innovation appears. Into this bucket I would through such initiatives as Big Data and Clouds. NonStop provides the premier platform for real-time transaction processing and the data that resides on NonStop systems is crucial to Big Data just as future NonStop applications will likely leverage Clouds as a cost-effective alternative resource.

However, I would also like to suggest we also include the embracement of a services model as there’s still so much more that needs to be done to fully embrace a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). For many across the NonStop community, embracing SOA is the path out of legacy and into greater engagement in the other initiatives. Simply stated, as the world embraces Big Data and Clouds, the emergence of new applications will demand from all participating systems that they externalize their logic as services – tracking a plethora of APIs simply won’t facilitate timely integration with the likely disruptive IT innovation Big Data and Clouds represent.

Coincidently, in that same feature article published in the November – December, 2011, “Façade - Architecture! One way to avoid scarring as we soar into the clouds!” I also quoted comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, who also wrote a feature in the same issue of the magazine, “By modernizing their NonStop platform access, (enterprises) can realize a host of significant benefits … while the challenges and benefits are clear, what isn’t clear is the path forward.”

“For me, the key message to communicate is that it is vital for the full value provided by NonStop to be truly recognized within an enterprise that it externalizes everything as a service,” comForte’s Burg added. “It’s really not a matter of whether IT moves to SOAP and Web services or something else altogether. What does matter is that the service-oriented approach to interacting with business logic is embraced. Yes, comForte has considerable experience in modernizing NonStop applications and yes, we have a set of tools and services that we market as ClientServer Link (CSL), and we can help businesses realize the value from their Nonstop systems, but it continues to surprise me how little some IT groups value taking steps to modernize in this manner. Maybe the economic downturn will prove to be the catalyst for some of these businesses to reassess the path their IT is taking!”

In the feature published in The Connection and already quoted above, I again referenced Dr. Hackathorn as he observed that “enterprise systems should be at the core for the centralized coordination and resource allocation necessary for a coherent enterprise. Dramatic leaps in applying new technologies seem so close, yet continue to be elusive at delivering real business value.” In view of how comForte’s Burg places a lot of emphasis on SOA, and on how many in business fail to recognize the importance of moving to SOA even today, it’s hard to fathom just why CIOs struggle as much as they do over this aspect of application modernization.

From my discussions with HP executives and managers it’s hard not to come away impressed at just how well NonStop is doing in the marketplace. So many quarters of double-digit growth just cannot be ignored and the potential for NonStop to disappear from the landscape seems less likely now than at any time in the past. Equipping NonStop applications to better integrate with the rest of IT and become an active participant in the disruptive IT innovation that is sure to come is an absolute necessity for IT no matter the path taken. The data accumulating on NonStop is just too important to ignore.

New industry initiatives such as Big Data and Clouds are yet further reasons for pursuing integration – unfortunately many NonStop groups within businesses are lagging badly when it comes to enterprise SOA and yet the upside from moving to service orientation more than justifies any investments that are made. With IT budgets heading even lower and CIOs looking to cut costs wherever possible, perhaps 2013 will indeed become the year when IT fully embraces the move to SOA.

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