Last August I described how IT should become the strategic service broker of the enterprise, and in my last posts I highlighted the hybrid model. Hybrid should be taken in two different senses here. First, hybrid as the integration of an environment that, for the forcible future includes both cloud based and traditional applications and services. And second, there are hybrid services, services coming from multiple sources. Users do not care about those nuances and are looking to source their services in a unique way, regardless of the mechanisms used to deliver them. IT is paid to figure that out, not the business.
So, in an ideal world, the users want to have access to a service catalogue, let’s call it an apps store as everybody understands that term, where they can choose the services they require to do their jobs. Whether these are services provided by a legacy SAP environment, or on-line services available in the cloud, it does not matter. For a number of years, enterprises such as HP, have been encapsulating their legacy applications using web application approaches enabling access within their intranet portal. Evolving this technology and combining access to cloud based and legacy functionality in one portal is what aggregation is all about.
Such approach benefits the users first, as it gives them a single place where to find the IT services they need. It also benefits IT, because it now allows IT to migrate their applications without requiring the users to be aware of what they are doing. In the early 2000’s HP developed the MyPIM (My Product Information Management) web application to shield users and suppliers from the consolidation of the master data management environments required after the Compaq merger. It demonstrated how powerful such approach can be if well implemented.
In an analysis of Ray Ozzie’s latest “Dawn of a New Day” post, which I’ll comment on in my next entry, James Urquhart highlights the difference between “moving to” and “building for” the cloud. Taking the approach described above while addressing the need for multiple user interface form factors, addresses in my mind the challenge described by James. Indeed, over the last 10 years, a lot of work has been done to improve the presentation of websites on mobile devices with small form factors. We can learn from that and take advantage of the experience gained to transform the user interfaces of legacy applications into something intuitive and usable by business people.
Most CIO’s have spent large budgets in developing/acquiring key application packages delivering the core operational and financial support needed to run the enterprise. This functionality is required but does not represent a competitive advantage anymore. So companies want to continue use the applications with limited investment. As James Urquhart points out: many legacy applications benefit from migrating to the cloud, not just in a pay per use model (with which the licencing models are typically not compatible) as he mentions, but also through the improved use of the IT infrastructure resulting from virtualization and automation.
Building on the need to remove complexity from the users, it now becomes important to allow a consistent access to all services provided by IT, regardless of whether they are performed by legacy application, in the private cloud, or sourced from an external provider.
An aggregation platform such as the one originally developed by HP for service providers, is an excellent basis to integrate the web services providing access to the legacy applications, the private cloud services as well as services sourced from the public cloud. CIO’s can now take the role of strategic service broker while modernizing their legacy environment, optimizing the use of their IT assets. They can benefit from a pay-per-use model for infrequently used applications, while this allows them to address the evolving needs of the business, improving its agility and responsiveness.