Enabling Digital Transformation through API and Microservices
Most enterprises today operate in an extremely competitive environment. The way to emerge victorious in this situation is to not only have superior offerings but to do things faster, better and cheaper than competitors. When we look at some of the most successful enterprises of our time, we find that there are a few distinct aspects that put them head and shoulders above the rest. The first is the smart use of data. Amazon, Netflix and Uber are great examples. The second big differentiator is in the way they design their processes to foster business growth. Agility is the third one. The ability to change continually based on what is happening in the market is invaluable.
Traditionally, most organizations have tried to address the need for an elevated business process through monolithic application suites; such as an ERP system to improve business process or a CRM solution to facilitate better customer service. These implementations were obviously quite effort intensive and disruptive. And on top of that, any addition of new functionality was highly dependent on the vendor’s upgrade schedule rather than the organization’s own evolving business needs.
To be successful, an organization, needs to make smart use of its data, adopt efficient business processes and bring agility into its function and for this it requires a digital transformation that touches the very core of the business.
Microservices to the Rescue
The emergence of microservices architecture and APIs has changed all that. Microservices turn the entire traditional approach to software delivery on its head. Instead of a single massive effort to build, integrate and test the entire software platform, a microservices approach allows the same functionalities to be delivered in the form of discrete lightweight services. These interact with the business through a set of well-defined APIs. APIs in simple terms enable enterprises to increase the points of presence (PoP) of their products and services; as we increase PoPs there is an inherent need of an architecture that would scale and enable the incremental delivery of capability to these PoPs. Microservices is this architectural technique that enables web scale architecture and incremental delivery of capabilities.
In either case, the microservices approach works very well because it enables smaller changes to be delivered incrementally; thereby speeding up delivery and avoiding major disruptions in service. As a result, Cloud or SAAS microservice providers can help organizations bring in new functionalities and features quickly and easily. Given that mobile and browser digital applications need to be extremely dynamic and require quick changes, microservices prove to be extremely valuable there too.
One of our clients, a global telecom major, is a great example. The company needed to introduce a number of new innovative value-added digital services for a new youth brand that it was launching. Due to the long implementation time, the launch of a new brand ran through a 12-15-month cycle, which was unacceptable. With the Infosys Platform for APIs and microservices, the company was able to achieve a drastic 66 percent reduction in cycle time from idea to feature release to production.
Also, with the growing emphasis on customer experience, we see enterprises putting in considerable resources to upgrade their digital User Interface (UI) layer. They do this by designing more intuitive interfaces and better process flows. In most cases, these changes are only at the superficial level and fail to percolate into the core. Comparatively, changing functionalities at the core level is a far more tedious and slow process. Microservices come in handy to address this challenge because with agile delivery and DevOps, they work well to bring more digital agility to the core functionality. Very clearly, as industries move towards cloud-based SAAS offerings and APIs, microservices architecture is very well aligned to this environment.
The new approach is to build a sustainable functionality for core services for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and upgrade to newer functionalities and features as and when newer services become available, thereby making the whole approach super agile and responsive.
Overcoming the Legacy Infrastructure Challenge
Admittedly, several organizations balk at a complete digital transformation because they have made significant investments into complex legacy landscapes over the years. The legacy infrastructure, however, is a treasure chest that contains a large volume of business functionality and data. If these are unlocked, they can provide tremendous value to the business. They can empower the organization to substantially improve customer satisfaction through better offerings and a personalized experience.
Microservices can enable organizations to use their rich Systems-of-Record and build new and modern applications that are agile, with minimal disruption to the legacy infrastructure. A simplified understanding of the underlying legacy system data and usage is important to achieve this.
One good example comes from the financial services sector, which often grapples with inflexible, old systems. Our client, a large global bank, was relying on a core banking system that was dependent on packaged systems and a highly complex backend. The launch of any new product or feature meant that the entire backend had to be reintegrated with the customer-facing channel. The architecture required approximately 5000 point to point interfaces that ultimately connected backend systems to the customer. We replaced this complexity with just 440 APIs in a single core-banking integration layer. This helped greatly reduce time to market for new product launches.
To pave the way for a customer-focused digital transformation, the legacy landscape needs to be navigated by creating fire-lanes of APIs that help us interact with it. Through a secure pathway to access the data in the legacy systems, APIs allow insights, that were previously buried, to come up to the surface and be used to drive better decision-making based on the right data.
Microservices enable insights to be uncovered from legacy data by building an entire ‘app economy’ on top of the traditional foundation. It enables these new insights to be delivered more quickly and accurately by decoupling the development of frontend and backend systems. Through this approach, microservices help bring the legacy infrastructure to life with an ease that is simply not possible through other means.
To sum up, microservices and APIs are indeed the gateway for scalable and agile digital transformation in a truly non-intrusive manner, especially for organizations that have a rich legacy landscape. They modernize the landscape and transform the business to take advantage of the ever-changing market demand.