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API Management / Cloud Native Ecosystem / Tech Culture

The Composable Enterprise: The Key to Digital Transformation

Composable Enterprise empowers business users to become citizen developers, and create the applications they need for their day-to-day workflows and customer experiences
Jun 30th, 2021 3:00am by
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Kevin Cochrane
Kevin Cochrane is SVP, Product Marketing at Acquia. Kevin has been a leader in the CMS industry since its inception, leading marketing teams at Interwoven, Alfresco, Adobe, Bloomreach and most recently, SAP. He is excited to continue driving innovation in the digital experience space. Kevin studied international relations at Stanford University.

Is 2021 the year of the composable enterprise? If trends like the API economy and cloud native architectures have anything to do with it, the answer is a resounding “yes!” The Composable Enterprise is a term Gartner coined to talk about a building block-like IT infrastructure that helps organizations move faster and respond more quickly to change. If last year’s pandemic proved anything, it’s that Composable Enterprises can quickly spin up new services to meet customer demand, or dial back their investments in areas that are no longer relevant.

A few decades ago, composability would have seemed impossible. But today, open APIs, reusable open source software components, and microservices make it happen every day. The composable enterprise is everywhere — from cloud native infrastructures, all the way up to the digital experiences consumers interact on their phones, tablets, Alexa devices and more. Let’s dig into this trend.

Composable: Born of Cloud Native Computing

The Composable Enterprise wouldn’t be anywhere without cloud native computing at its roots. Cloud native infrastructures leverage shared cloud computing resources to run lightweight microservices-based applications. Instead of building a behemoth legacy application on an on-prem database, for example, a cloud native development team would build and orchestrate a series of microservices to accomplish the same goal. That way, if one service needs to change, teams can move quickly to execute on these changes without impacting the rest of the application.

A few major tenets of cloud native computing include reusable components and open source software. The same holds true of the Composable Enterprise. Many packaged business applications within the Composable Enterprise are built on open source software. These applications share data via open APIs. While development teams are responsible for orchestrating applications in the Composable Enterprise, the role of the business user is more prominent than in cloud native computing.

Let’s look at an example. In a Composable Enterprise architecture, a business user like a marketing operations leader would be able to make decisions on which applications fit within their marketing technology stack. The development team could orchestrate the connections between these applications with open APIs. From there, the application frontend would be simple enough for the business user to build what they needed to (from websites to marketing campaigns) without the intervention of an IT team.

Why the Composable Enterprise Matters

Digital transformation and modernization are two buzzwords that get thrown around a lot. In reality, modernizing from monolithic applications to a Composable Enterprise model could have major business implications for organizations. The biggest benefit includes the ability to move fast and integrate new business applications into the technology stack, without the fear of creating more data silos.

More importantly, the composable approach to flexibility actually reinforces governance and ensures security. It does so by establishing a defined governance model for the development of self-service tools and packaged business capabilities deployed as functional, configurable modules. In other words, a composable architecture is secure and governable from the ground up, ensuring that flexibility doesn’t turn into a free-for-all.

In the past, the only companies that benefited from legacy enterprise tech lock-in were the tech giants themselves. Today, the new cloud native tech giants like AWS are embracing composability. The recently announced SaaS Boost model helps migrate existing applications to a SaaS delivery model, and extend software to a variety of other components (such as OAuth, OpenTelemetry, Okta, New Relic, etc.). This new shared services economy provides more utility for software buyers, putting them in the drivers’ seat to choose the best software for their individual use cases.

In addition, the Composable Enterprise empowers business users to become citizen developers, and create the applications they need for their day-to-day workflows and customer experiences. This self-sufficiency, in turn, frees up development resources to innovate on new business applications and the underlying infrastructure that makes the Composable Enterprise tick.

Finally, reusable code and modular software design principles will be at the core of every organization within the next decade. This type of approach means we are not reinventing the wheel with each new software project, we’re making the wheel better through reusable components. The Composable Enterprise not only fuels software development at a faster pace, it decreases the friction associated with change. The ideas of legacy technology and “rip and replace” deserve to be permanent relics of the past.

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