Unbundling of Application Suites: Big Changes Coming Your Way

Unbundling of Application Suites: Big Changes Coming Your Way

Do you know what the biggest category of spending is in IT today? It’s the class of software (we’ll just call them megasuites) like ERP, CRM, SCM, PLM, and others, that run most of the key front and back office applications in the enterprise today.

The appeal of these products has traditionally been their broad functionality, providing a tight degree of integration that ensures the integrity of processes and data that are implemented within their respective domains. It’s one less thing for IT to worry about. They know this stuff just works.

That’s all about to change.

Vendors of these megasuites have started to decouple this tight integration and are exposing more of their business functionality as APIs. They’re doing this because their current products have simply become too inflexible and tightly bundled to adapt to the rate of change in many businesses today.

Everything moves faster in the “always on, always connected” mobile world we live in today. Megasuite vendors are responding to customer demands for greater agility in how these product are deployed, modified, and integrated with other applications. They are at risk of becoming legacy software dinosaurs if they don’t.

They really have no choice.

But there’s no free lunch here. The tradeoff these vendors are making to deliver this increased agility and flexibility through a broad set of APIs and access points is to push the burden of integration onto their customers. Yes, developers will have broad access to a whole set of functionality they couldn’t access before, but they will need to integrate this new functionality into application flows very carefully, to ensure data and process integrity is maintained.

Apparently, industry analysts see it the same way. According to a recent Gartner report on this topic, “Breaking the inherent tight integration of an ERP suite increases the risk of violating data and business process integrity. Simply interfacing applications will not result in the same level of data and process integrity that ERP suites have historically delivered.”

We are already seeing the big application suites being broken into more modular components and exposing a lot more APIs, and you can expect to see a huge increase in integration scope and spending to manage it. It will likely take a number of years for the re-architecting of these application suites to play out, and it will almost certainly be one of the major IT disruptors, with ripple effects for years to come.

In the report referenced above, Gartner goes on to say:

  • By 2017, in large organizations, at least 65% of new integration flows will be developed outside the control of IT departments.
  • By 2018, more than 50% of the cost of implementing 90% of new large systems will be spent on integration.
  • By 2020, less than 20% of multinational organizations will continue to plan and adopt an ERP strategy based on a single-instance megasuite.

This trend toward API-enabling large application suites will have a profound impact on how IT approaches the task of integrating these APIs into their broader IT fabric and will highlight a number of important capabilities that must be core to your integration infrastructure, to effectively deal with this new set of challenges:

  • As these vendors expose more fine grained services and data, you will need rock solid choreography and metadata management to ensure the loose coupling and workflows work properly, with clearly understood upstream and downstream dependencies.
  • Master Data Management will be really important to manage data synchronization and integrity in a world of composable functionality in the big suites. Much more so than today.
  • Because of the transactional and stateful nature of these suites, REST APIs will not be the right solution in many cases. This is going to need to be a mix of SOAP and REST, so strong interoperability between these two API styles will be a core requirement.
  • Breaking apart these suites will create even more APIs that need to be managed. At some point, API sprawl is going to be a big problem and you will want a single pane of glass to manage it all. As microservices, mobile applications, and IoT also come online, we will hit this tipping point very quickly.

Clearly, integration complexity is going to increase. However, this is exactly what a well-designed modern integration platform should be capable of handling. It’s also true that all integration products are not created equally. As usual, the devil is in the details.

Make sure you work with your application suite vendors to understand what their plans are for API-enabling their products, so that you can position your company to take advantage of this opportunity to gain better agility from this new generation of service-oriented application suites that are core to so many enterprises today.