How low-code can help enterprises left-shift application security

Modern enterprise application needs have become intricate. They demand application development and deployment to be cloud-native, agile, scalable, and secure. The app ecosystem has become intertwined, and enterprise applications have become complex beasts, built on monolithic systems. The transformation continues. Modern application development is becoming more agile and scalable and deployment of applications on the cloud is increasing. Application architecture is transforming from monolithic to microservice-oriented architecture. Developers and IT Ops are collaborating giving rise to the culture of DevOps. With the increasing pressure on high performance, DevOps teams are urged to use more sophisticated technology and techniques.

Besides achieving agility and scalability, DevOps teams are also entrusted with achieving enterprise application security goals. App Security has become a high-priority goal and a shared responsibility. It’s reflected in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Application Security Testing, 2020” report, there’s a 50% increase in the number of end-user and client conversations about AST (Application Security Testing) tools and DevSecOps in 2020.

To embed application security across the development cycle requires various levels of automation testing and setting up of configurations at different stages of the application development and deployment process. What development teams are doing is that they are using container technology and microservices to “pull security” early into the DevOps process. In addition to application security, another trend highlighted in Gartner’s report is the increasing attention (of 65%) on container security.

While many enterprises are already running cloud-native, microservices-based, containerized applications in production, there are several challenges; from technology immaturity, a steep learning curve, to the lack of operational expertise and know-how. What’s taking precedence today in high-performance development teams is the left-shift application security earlier in the stages of development.

“Shift Left” App Security – The Guiding Force Behind High-Performance Development Teams

App Security has become a business imperative. In Forrester’s Report on “The Top Security Technology Trends To Watch, 2020”, integration of application security tools with CI/CD pipeline is a major priority in 2020. Application security has become the primary focus of high-performance DevOps teams and by “left-shift application security” parameters, security is a shared responsibility and is being implemented by developers. Moreover, with the rise of DevSecOps the silos of application and infrastructure security are being bridged.

AppSec – The Primary Focus of DevOps in a Containerized Environment

DevOps teams not only have to mitigate operational issues related to performance, integrity, availability of containers in production environments, they also need to ensure security is embedded early in the DevOps process. With greater urgency to automate application security testing (AST) in the DevOps process, the attention of DevOps teams needs to be directed towards the integration of the CI/CD toolchain with application security tools such as software composition analysis (SCA), static application security testing (SAST), and container security.

When embracing the DevOps culture and migrating applications to the cloud in a containerized environment, security must be embedded across the development lifecycle. To ensure compliance of performance and resiliency, the focus needs to shift to service-level and container-specific monitoring. DevOps teams need to monitor applications within containers and across containers at a service level. “Pulling in” application security earlier into the development lifecycle would form the beginning of what is called DevSecOps.

DevSecOps – Breaking the Silo of Application and Infrastructure Security

The ‘mantra’ of DevSecOps is “shift left”, encouraging developers to move security from the right end of the development and delivery process to the left end (beginning). True to its abbreviation, DevSecOps – development, security, and operations – ensures the integration of security is automated across the lifecycle, from application design, testing, deployment, and delivery.

With the essence of DevSecOps being “software, safer, sooner”, it enables seamless integration of application and infrastructure security with the DevOps process. By allowing developers to address enterprise application security issues earlier before the application goes into production, it makes security issues easier to fix without disrupting the development cycle. Breaking the security silo, DevSecOps makes security a shared responsibility of IT Ops, security, and development teams.

Integrating security and testing across the development lifecycle may seem like a daunting challenge. However, there are emerging technology and tools available to ensure security is pulled in early enough. Low-code platforms give enterprises the leverage to embedded security when developing cloud-native applications, managing containers, and adopting microservices-based architecture. To implement the practice of DevSecOps, low-code gives the opportunity to address and improve application security across the development lifecycle.

The Window of Opportunity – How Low-Code Enables Enterprises to “Shift Left” Application Security 

Low-code platforms help enterprises by integrating application-level, security features such as authorization, authentication, auditability, certification, performance monitoring, and security architecture, across the application development lifecycle. By automating application-level security features, low-code platforms ensure robust authorization and authentication systems that have built-in encryption and provide XSS and CSRF configurations to address security threats and vulnerabilities. To help developers configure security features when building applications, low-code platforms provide fine-grained controls, built-in encryption options, comprehensive authentication and authorization processes, OWASP compliance support, and data protection.

While application development and deployment processes are transforming so is application architecture, which is moving from monolithic legacy systems to microservices-based architecture. With microservices, there are many hands-on the deck. Enterprise applications are made into smaller components and many developers are working on different functionalities at various stages of the development cycle. At this time, when application architecture is transforming, security goals remain unchanged. In fact, the demands for enterprise application security are heightened and they need to be imbibed in the development process. Low-code platforms support microservices-based architecture and enable the “left-shift application security” of security parameters by allowing developers to configure security protocols, set privileges, and automate testing before the application goes into production. Moreover, as enterprises leverage next-generation app delivery tools such as container technology, low-code platforms help to embrace containerization at scale without disruption in existing processes and without requiring the reskilling of existing resources.

Low-code’s promise is that of “Zero Complexity” DevOps Automation. It ensures minimal disruption of existing development teams, enables on-premise and cloud deployments seamlessly, automates CI/CD processes, saves on security infrastructure costs, and enables DevOps teams to focus on core application needs.

If you think the “left-shift application security” principle of pulling security earlier into the DevOps process may slow down the speed of development, think again. It shouldn’t be a trade-off to choose between accelerating application development and managing application security threats and fixing failures.  Achieving time-to-market delivery and security goals can be simultaneously achieved if you manage the DevOps process using emerging application development and deployment tools. The window of opportunity here is to streamline processes, using a sophisticated technology stack, and utilizing next-gen technology that low-code offers to nurture AppSec innovation across the development cycle.

Future proofing traditional Java programming teams with low-code

Enterprise needs today have become more demanding. The new sense of urgency, to evolve, to modernize and drive mobility, scalability, and flexibility has led to enterprises embracing a ‘digital first’ approach and adopting new technology extensively. While this translates to reinvention in the way of working and the use of technologies, it does not mean that every aspect of the business needs to be reinvented.

Old systems and skills, that have stood the test of time, need not be discarded altogether. Instead, upgrading systems and updating skills can help to meet new enterprise demands with old tools and can result in easier implementation and better ROI on IT investment.

A relevant example of how emerging technology is combined with conventional tools is the use of low-code platforms with traditional Java programming in application development. Twenty years on and many enterprise servers are still using the Java programming language and successfully running Java-based, mission-critical applications. The fact that Java is still being used speaks of its evolution and effectiveness in addressing enterprise demands even in the age of cloud computing and container technology.

When creating application development strategies, there is often a debate about whether low-code should be preferred over traditional Java programming. However, this is not an “either / or” decision. While low-code platforms are designed to provide core functionalities, with the help of experienced developers customization and specialized functions can be added to applications. After all, a low-code platform is ultimately built on a programming language like Java.

With low-code platforms gaining momentum, the role that traditional Java programming plays cannot be ignored. By combining old with new technologies, here’s how the micro and macro levels of application development can be covered to meet new enterprise demands.

Give developers the bandwidth to innovate

In certain application development projects, combining low-code with manual coding helps developers spend more time on complex functions. As the low-code platform can be used to create core applications rapidly, developers can focus on critical specifications to make the application rich.

Build apps that support multiple device ecosystems and operating systems

Enterprises today need to build applications that can run on different operating systems and devices. Such an ecosystem requires application development using neutral languages and coding for specific parts of the application that have distinct functionality.

Java development teams have to make an enormous effort in manual coding to create modern applications that work in dynamic environments. Here’s where low-code platforms help by enabling developers to duplicate core functions of applications that can work across devices and environments.

Ease the application maintenance process

Specifications of IT hardware and software are changing more frequently than before. As the technical requirements constantly change, relevant modifications to the code is necessary to ensure the app functions. When enterprises rely entirely on traditional Java development teams, manual changes in code makes app maintenance a tedious affair.

App maintenance can be made easier by using low-code platforms. Using visual development interfaces and modular components, low-code platforms manage and maintain applications in the backend giving enterprises the time to focus on the design and critical functions of the application.

Streamline the application deployment process

Deployment of applications is a complex process because every line of code needs to be tested in a lab environment, and trials to ensure multiple app instances function in specific configurations needs to be conducted. Testing before deployment requires intensive manual programming and its complexity makes it a time-consuming process.

With pre-built modules, low-code platforms help to test app functionality before their release. With the actual development and production environment accessible in a cloud ecosystem, testing and deployment using low-code is simpler and faster.

To optimally utilise the skills and experience of development resources, enterprises need to combine the technical strength of traditional systems with the speed, agility and scalability that modern technologies offer. By combining the old with new technologies, not only can applications be developed, maintained and deployed faster, rich applications can also be created by allowing traditional development teams to give the required attention to detail.

In a market environment where change is constant and the future is uncertain, future-proofing seems to be the safest way forward. Stay relevant to stay ahead by upgrading your legacy systems with a modern low-code platform. Find out how our low-code platform can help you adopt new technology meaningfully.

Originally published in TECHGYD.COM

Low-Code Empower IT And Drive Digital Transformation – WaveMaker

By Vijay Pullur,
CEO, WaveMaker.

Recently, I was in conversation with a business associate who is an IT leader of an insurance company. Our conversation revolved around how digital transformation is revolutionizing the insurance industry faster than other sectors. He spoke about how the expectations include technology in every sense, from self-service dashboards, faster claims processing, simpler and smarter purchasing experiences, and insurance as a service. As our discussion veered from digital transformation to the new wave of modernization, he made an interesting statement. All he wished in the coming year was to automate systems without disruption, reduce labor-intensive processes, minimize IT dependency and reduce application maintenance and support costs.

It seemed to be a reasonable wish, considering that in this IT-powered world, digital transformation and modernization seem to have taken center stage. Ours is a world where speed is critical and enterprises are under pressure to deliver faster and build rapidly and with greater efficiency.

As the hypercompetitive landscape becomes more hectic, enterprises are aiming to operate faster and smarter, placing "digital-first" strategies in the limelight. A recent example of companies investing in modernization and digital transformation is the Google’s acquisition of Appsheet, a no-code mobile app development platform. With the aim to revamp the approach to application development, Google acquired this platform to empower development teams to develop, deploy and deliver applications seamlessly.

The fact that 40% of technology spending (that’s more than $2 trillion) was on digital transformation in 2019 illustrates the importance of having a "digital-first" strategy.

In 2020, CIOs and IT leaders are focusing on modernization to achieve operational excellence, agility, mobility and scalability. The central plot in most digital transformation stories is the modernization of legacy systems, and as it becomes a mainstream priority, the protagonist in this story is emerging technology. In this plot, the role of software application development must be considered seriously, more than just serving as props. The first step that will usher in successful transformation is understanding how technology has evolved and how it can be adopted.

Over the decades, software application development has witnessed an interesting journey. Growing in complexity over time, it has evolved from using spreadsheets and simple scripts to custom software development by IT teams and rapid application development (RAD) or low-code development by business users. The pace of developing software applications has accelerated. The tech infrastructure has also moved on from on-premises to cloud environments, and from software as a service (SaaS) to application platform as a service (aPaaS) to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) solutions.

Along with the evolution of technology, the roles of stakeholders such as application leaders, IT teams and business users are also changing. While there is an increasing overlap between roles, the gap between business and IT teams does not seem to have reduced. Here is where technology plays an important role in bridging the gap between silos and upskilling existing teams to reduce the skills gap.

In modernization initiatives, technology is being widely adopted to accelerate application development. APaas solutions and centralized application development platforms help to harness the potential emerging technologies. With low-code development, you can develop, deploy and integrate applications with other services seamlessly. Rapid application development platforms bring more control to IT teams, to deliver and innovate more with less. Giving more power to IT and professional developers instead of citizen developers also addresses the issue of shadow IT.

While modernization and digital transformation initiatives are implemented at a breathtaking pace, not all stories have spelled success. Owing to many challenges, the success of projects has been tepid, and hesitation has been high. Modernization of legacy systems have witnessed several friction points such as concerns about security, stress on IT teams, alignment of business and IT, and the absence of a strong modernization strategy.

Another challenge the industry is currently facing is the shortage of technical talent. As the dependency on specialist roles continues to increase, enterprises are looking toward technology as a solution. For instance, rapid application development platforms are considered a viable solution because they reduce the dependency on technical resources, empower existing teams to upskill and enable development teams to achieve more with a self-service approach to application development.

These challenges aside, one of the questions most IT leaders are asking is “How do we ensure business continuity and transition with least disruption in business operations?” Disruption seems to be one of the major challenges and is addressed by rapid application development platforms that offer the power to develop applications quickly and ensure seamless integration with existing systems.

As IT leaders vacillate about decisions to modernize systems, mulling over necessary change is only going to make it more difficult to transform. Taking a strategic approach to modernization is of the essence, and the main factor that can make or break your efforts is how well you manage the entire application and software development life cycle.

The competitive landscape requires you to raise the stakes. It requires you to do things better and with greater speed. It requires you to try different approaches to address challenges.

The year 2020 and beyond will witness rapid change, technologically and culturally. What enterprises need to understand is that digital transformation should be considered an ongoing state of change rather than as a one-time project, and the approach has to evolve constantly. Rapid application development is gaining speed because it provides a platform-driven approach to app modernization and it focuses on bridging gaps and breaking silos. It helps to align business and IT teams, bridge the IT skills gap and break the application, infrastructure, and organizational silos. If we are to usher in the coming decade, we need to transform to keep up with the digitally dexterous, hypercompetitive and IT-powered world.

Originally published in Forbes

Accelerate agility for Rapid Application Development

“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.” - The Agile Manifesto

This is one of the key principles of Agile software development. This ‘environment and support’ — what has come to be known as the agile organizational structure — comes in various shapes and forms. A specific and well-documented model is that of Spotify, which groups its teams as squads, tribes, chapters, and guilds.

You can dive into the details of the Spotify engineering culture here, but for the purpose of this article, here’s a gist...

In theory, this is a great model. Squads, being autonomous, can develop and deploy applications faster. Chapters can help strengthen specialized skill sets. Guilds and tribes can encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

In practice, though, implementing this model can be a challenge. For instance, without coordination and leadership support, guilds might not amount to much. Shortage of specialized skills might mean that a developer or a QA is expected to juggle multiple squads. Each tribe might turn into a silo, affecting organization-wide standardization of programming practices or optimization of tools.

To overcome these challenges and accelerate organizational agility, enterprises need an intervention: a low-code platform.

A low-code platform is a visual development approach that enables application teams to accelerate development with graphical user interface-based coding and pre-existing repeatable configurations. In short, with simple drag-and-drop actions, teams can quickly and securely create enterprise-grade applications. Organizations typically adopt low-code to expedite their development and save cost. Yet, they often find that low-code platforms have a positive effect on organizational agility and culture. Here’s how low-code makes it happen:

Strengthen the developer toolbox, eliminating the skills gap

The developer role is among the hardest to fill. As the need for enterprise applications grows, the supply of developers to build them will be an important bottleneck. It is here that a low-code platform does two things well. It makes your business user a citizen-developer, who can build usable applications without much coding knowledge. Also, it transforms programmers into full-stack developers, empowering them to make their squads truly autonomous.

As a result, developers play a more meaningful role within their squad. They can even jump easily between squads without any drop in productivity. Chapter leads can use low-code platforms to reduce the burden on their training resources — in that, they don’t need to train their developer to hand-code every feature. This ensures that the speed of development is not entirely dependent on the developer’s skill set.

Accelerate the idea-to-app journey with rapid prototyping

Another complaint about application development teams is that they are often sitting on a huge backlog of user stories. Manually coding each of them takes time and energy. With low-code platforms, app teams can prototype rapidly and collaborate with business teams instantly, to test far more features than they used to. This clears the backlog and paves way for experimentation with all kinds of ideas.

Boost adaptability-to-change with automation and integration

Welcoming change, even late in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a fundamental principle in the agile manifesto. By freeing up time spent in hand-coding the application, data integration, and manual deployment, low-code allows for focus on the customer. With low-code, making changes to apps is easy, managing those changes is easier.

Ease deployment at scale

By its very nature, enterprise application development demands scale. With hundreds of microservices and containers across multi-cloud environments, application deployment itself requires large operations teams. Yet, having multiple operators within each squad is not the most optimum use of organizational resources. A low-code platform with auto-containerization, cloud-native architecture, and integrated CI/CD pipeline can automate much of the deployment process.

The foundations of an agile organization are Autonomy of squads, alignment with product strategy, organization-wide collaboration, self-driven communities, and innovation through experimentation. This requires significant financial investment in hiring and training; as well as cultural investment in encouraging collaboration and fostering innovation etc. While this is necessary, it might also be time-consuming.

A low-code application development platform, as part of your technology toolbox, can give your squads and tribes the ‘environment and support’ they need to excel at their job. And by extension, they accelerate the organizational agility required to stay competitive in this environment.

2020 Predictions: Shifting Dynamics of Evolving Ecosystems

2019 was the year we witnessed business leaders intensify their efforts to embrace digital transformation initiatives and build an adaptive, technical and operational foundation. The challenges were plenty, many of which still need to be addressed.

Companies have had to deal with technical debt and organizational silos, which has increased resource allocation to their core tech stacks. Several digital transformation initiatives fell short on delivering desired returns. Many companies have eagerly adopted new technologies. While all of this was intended to achieve operational efficiency and viability, it has led to dealing with technical challenges.

With 2020 around the corner, the predictions are optimistic and radical. As the challenges continue to be actively addressed, let’s take a look at some of the aspects that will gain momentum in 2020.

CIOs and business leaders will embody transformative rolesbecoming 'chief enablers.'

These executives will chase tech-driven innovation with grit and break silos of teams to build ecosystems. The focus will revolve around people management, tech-driven innovation and ecosystem-building skills. In 2020, CIOs will be looking to automate their IT tasks and upskill everyone in order to address the increasing pressure to improve efficiency and control costs. This will not translate to layoffs; instead, Forrester Analytics data predicts agile DevOps teams will be created by training teams to manage more complex tasks.

Businesses will leverage the potential of emerging technologies to address challenges.

From decentralized autonomous organizations to immersive workplaces and digital ecosystems, companies will consider emerging technologies to reduce costs and invest in growth. In discussions about the outlook for the global IT market at the Gartner IT Symposium, analysts predicted that in 2020, enterprise software spending will reach $507 billion, a 10.9% growth from 2019.

Companies will adopt an immersive and adaptive IT approach.

Following shape-shifting characteristics of organizations, "fluid IT capability" will be nurtured, where the boundaries between IT and business will fade. Enterprises will embrace agile development practices to ensure better collaboration between business and IT. To achieve agility, businesses will work toward connecting people, applications and devices seamlessly.

With the increasing need to bridge silos, I believe developing enterprise applications with faster release cycles will result in the increasing adoption of low-code platforms. The fact that the low-code development platform market is growing at a rate of 40% and is expected to reach $21.2 billion by 2022 confirms the potential of modernization using emerging technologies.

Initiatives to upskill the workforce will be significant.

I believe this will come to fruition as IT leaders will have to address the challenge of cost control in an economically volatile environment. Cross-domain knowledge workers will be given importance, where employees with higher skills will be paid more and retained. Companies will invest in prepping employees to work together with automation tools and technologies. Employee development and improving the learning agility of teams will become the main priorities.

Companies will design their business applications experience around employees.

As the digital workplace evolves, employees will expect business applications they use and develop to deliver more. This prediction is based on the notion that the "one size fits all" approach offered by some companies will need to change. Low-code platforms will enable application development in alignment with job requirements, and self-service DevOps will democratize the way enterprise applications are deployed and used.

Employee digital dexterity will be the essence of future digital workplaces.

How work gets done will be transformed by employee-facing technologies. Collaborative, cloud-based work management tools will be adopted to create a digital dexterous workforce. Given that the competitive advantage of most companies is derived from how employees use technology, emerging technologies will be adopted widely to make employees and teams more agile, inclusive and engaged.

I foresee 2020 being a year that will witness far-reaching, fast-paced changes. Tech-driven innovation will drive changes in the digital workplace and the ecosystem. Emerging technologies and software platforms will revolutionize how enterprises develop, deliver and manage applications used by their employees and customers. Driven to achieve embedded connectivity, improve business agility and foster innovation, companies will evolve based on the shape-shifting dynamics of the workforce, workspace and marketplace. The best way forward is to plan ahead.

Originally published in Forbes by Vijay Pullur, CEO WaveMaker.

Progressively Break Monoliths to Microservices

“Change before you have to.” This quote by Jack Welch, Former CEO, General Electric has never had greater significance than today. Everything is constantly changing, from the expectations of digital customers, the requirement for better user experiences by the next-gen workforce, changing business models according to business needs, to the modernization of technology, before it becomes inevitable.

Consider this example. A health-information and intelligence company in Stamford, Connecticut built a ‘health intelligence platform’ to create their labs’ competitive difference. The platform built years ago had advanced from enabling clients’ lab operations to creating an impact on lab research outcomes. While the software developed 2 decades ago was robust, there was an imminent need for modernization.

From the VP of tech engineering to the lab head, there were change agents or champions who recognized this need for modernization. However other stakeholders, comfortable using the old system, were apprehensive to move to new systems. In due course, the company embraced modernization and upgraded from a legacy, FoxPro-based Lab Information Management software (LIS) to a modern Java/Angular application.

By using a low-code platform, they were able to accelerate application development, automate ordered tests, simplify integration with external systems, and develop applications quickly and economically. This accelerated their time-to-market - a necessary competitive edge, where the extent of technology leverage could make the difference between invention and discovery. Taking this example, we will discuss the approach and the steps that every change agent should consider when embarking on the modernization journey.

Modernization is not only about scaling or ramping up software technology, it also requires an enterprise-wide change in mindset. A change in mindset in the way people work, collaborate and communicate with each other and with the technology they use. What most enterprises are facing today seems to be an impasse. On one hand, business owners feel that the use of technology is limited to the support they get from IT and on the other hand, there are tech owners who do not have the time or the skills to deliver more. When IT teams are overloaded with enterprise demands, the bandwidth for core business innovation is minimal.

For decades, enterprise-class systems have had a monolithic approach. Enterprise architecture has evolved from monolithic models to service-oriented architecture and is progressively moving towards microservices architecture. The role of enterprise architecture has also matured, from supporting IT to a strategic role of innovation.

Enterprises can stay competitive by incrementally transforming monolithic legacy systems to adopting a modern, agile approach such as microservices. Once they experience the agile delivery of microservices, innovation will naturally flow. Any change agent will tell you, undertaking an IT modernization initiative is not an easy feat and the first question that invariably arises is “how and where to start?”

Enterprise IT Modernization Using Microservices 

How and where to start 

In any migration or modernization project, making enterprise-wide changes all at once is not always feasible, as it would involve intense coordination and meticulous planning. Moreover, modernization requires investment in emerging technologies, therefore big budgets need to be approved and allocated. The first step in IT modernization is not to make a mountain of the existing monolithic system. If new functionalities need to be added to the software, adding them to the legacy system is only going to make the migration process more difficult. Instead, build independently deliverable services, microservices.

5 Aspects to Consider When Migrating to Microservices 

Here is an approach with 5 steps that every change agent in an enterprise should consider when they begin their journey of modernization to microservices.

APIs are used to integrate components (third-party and internal) and the model used will determine the business profitability. Generating APIs for a new service or reusing code of existing services that invariably use legacy technology can be challenging. The pace at which APIs need to be generated is something most enterprises are grappling with.

In the earlier example, the health IT company had to build APIs over databases and custom services. Using a platform to integrate external EHR (electronic health record) systems and enable building a database of patient health records, a unified API helped them access data and run queries.

To improve productivity, low-code platforms are used to auto-generate APIs, where it is not limited to simple, database CRUD operations, but also the generation of APIs for search, filter, aggregate and export services, among others. APIs can be built over databases and for custom services and can also be generated for database queries with stored procedures. Using the ‘API designers’ feature in a low-code platform, REST APIs are generated automatically for every service imported into an application, be it a Database Service or Java Service.

Low-code platforms also offer the advantage of writing business logic by reusing generated APIs in popular languages like Java. When enterprises are in a position where they are still using legacy technology like JSF, Struts, JSP or Servlet where Java code is used, low-code makes it possible to extract the code and generate APIs from it. There are different ways in which a low-code platform can help in reusing code to generate APIs, either by obtaining the libraries of the code and wrapping it in a service or copying the code in a service. Moreover, since development teams would probably be using Java, reusing code and generating APIs becomes very easy.

When it comes to migrating the most valuable asset, which is data, the challenge of “data gravity” arises. Over time, as data grows, how it attracts other data, how it is integrated and how it is customized, changes. Data migration not only has to be done with speed to avoid disruption, it also has to be done accurately and securely.

When migrating to microservices, all of the data from storage systems have to migrate from a monolithic solution. However, at the time of migration, the data itself is not accessible directly.

To make data available across microservices, frequent data migration routines or a synchronization process needs to be created and these datasets need to be made available as APIs. In the earlier example, daily schedules for data migration and syncing were created to ensure access to near real-time data and minimal process disruption for users.

There are several on-premise, open-source, and cloud-based data migration tools. From on-premise data migration tools such as Centerprise Data Integrator, IBM InfoSphere, Informatica PowerCenter, Microsoft SQL, Oracle Data Service Integrator and Talend, to open source tools like Apache NiFi, CloverETL, Myddleware, and Pentaho, to cloud-based tools such as Alooma, Fivetran, Matillion, Snaplogic, and Stitch Data. These tools can provide simple data migration and repeatability.

Low-code platforms simplify and accelerate the entire data migration process securely. They make it easy to integrate anything from databases to third-party libraries and deliver seamless experiences with offline data access and synchronization.

Nothing compares to a user-friendly application to demonstrate its value. When using apps, the user interface (UI) is what delivers the experience for users. By creating ‘beautiful looking’ UIs, it is easier to get stakeholders to understand the value that an enterprise application can deliver.

Imagine you could provide users with better usability by providing a web application instead of a desktop application. What if you could create a modern UI that displays information and encourages interaction, something that was not possible until now. What if you can enable your users to use the functionality of modern applications through their mobile phones, on-the-go.

And what if you can build predictions and forecasts based on data and showcase it using powerful dashboards to stakeholders.

Modern, low-code tools have made it easy to create simple UI applications. With drag-and-drop features and limitless customization that low-code platforms offer, developers can create aesthetic UIs to deliver pixel-perfect application designs, at scale.

When migrating to microservice architecture, the best way to start is to break down the monolith into manageable chunks. The best approach would be to pick microservices out of the existing monolith one service at a time. Once the first service is up and running out of the monolith, this will give insights into how to create more microservices.

Once a service is taken out of the monolith, identify more uses cases that can be pulled out of the existing application. Identifiable services could range from managing new customer orders, self-service applications providing customer information to a new payment service, basically, those services that can be managed as separate microservices.

The whole point of selecting one microservice at a time is to measure value and improvement. When choosing a service to be migrated or modernized, it is best to choose a high-value service, or a service that requires frequent change but not delivered as frequently, or one that can demonstrate visible visual improvement to stakeholders. Before creating a baseline to measure the effectiveness of change, make sure you gather relevant numbers such as the number of releases, amount of delivery and delivery time.

What microservices provide is a software component model that helps to future-proof systems against the changing business needs. Microservices works best when multiple teams are working in coordination to run a complex network of systems that require evolving applications. When applications and systems become complex and large enough to be broken down into separate services adopting microservices architecture is beneficial.

Make Migration to Microservices Meaningful

Inspire Innovation and Confront Change

Monolithic legacy systems cannot be transformed overnight. To migrate from monolithic systems and efficiently create enterprise-class microservices, a low-code approach has proven to be the most effective. Low-code platforms provide the ability to develop custom software stacks, deploy API-driven microservices-based applications and orchestrate IT infrastructure effectively. In this app economy, using an ‘API-first’ strategy with microservices architecture works great because it enables enterprises to focus on delivering value and accelerating innovation on a massive scale.

Look at microservices through a macro lens to understand how enterprises can use modern approaches such as low-code to rapidly respond to evolving demands. With composable architecture based on microservices, APIs, reusable components and containerization, low-code platforms empower enterprises to rapidly develop and deploy modern and cloud-native applications with agility, scalability, and simplicity.

Migration to modern technology is a major change for many enterprises, technologically and culturally. What low-code platforms provide is a catalyst that change agents can use to showcase the value of microservices to other stakeholders. Because modernization of legacy systems and migration to modern technologies is going to be inevitable, eventually.

How CIOs can Capitalize on the Power of APIs

As soon as the wheels of modernization picked up speed, many new technologies filled up the IT space. Of them, Application Programming Interface or APIs emerged as a key element driving application modernization. APIs are a network of connections that allow systems, applications, and devices to talk to each other by sharing business functionalities; regardless of where it is located or what format they’re in.

With the API space evolving more rapidly than ever before, most executives now regard APIs as the lifeline of their enterprises.

In its report, ‘2019 State of API Integration Report’, Cloud Elements mention that 55% of businesses use APIs to generate revenue.

In fact, the Programmable Web directory accounts for over 22,000 public APIs now. Do you know what’s more surprising? These numbers are based on publicly available APIs and do not reflect any private or internal API growth at all, which outnumber the public total many times over.

So what’s the big deal about APIs?

The most important aspect of APIs is that they bring in standardization of interfaces in the development process. Developers get to work on structured and standardized APIs that are bound not to change their underlying behavior, irrespective of the technology or components used underneath. APIs also take care of hiding the complexity of underlying implementation, bringing in modularity and separation of concerns, which lets independent decoupled services be implemented and tested.

Consider this example - an app developer can write millions of lines of code spending a fortune to create applications with mapping capability. Or, he can import these capabilities from Google maps API, saving money and time and enjoying a faster time to market. At the same time, Google enjoys branding benefits as well as earns revenue from millions of developers using its public API.

 

The API Economy 

It is a term that describes the way APIs can positively affect an organization's profitability. In some organizations like Salesforce.com, APIs contribute to more than 50% of total revenue. There was a time when only software professionals knew about APIs. Today, C-level executives are aware of the financial impact that APIs can have, and companies are generating revenue by exposing APIs as business building blocks for third-party applications. This awareness is a result of the following trends highlighting the API economy:

Forrester predicts that, by 2020, companies will invest around $3 billion in API management.

This indicates the importance showered on API management. It highlights a very important fact that at the core of companies’ transformation strategy lies the user experience, and APIs play the meatier role of ensuring that these experiences are consistent among all the different channels of the company. The reason why APIs get the lion’s share of attention is that it enables quick deployment of apps in a repeatable way, leading to a faster pace of delivery. Additionally, APIs can reduce the cost of change and help enterprises achieve operational efficiencies.

APIs have made integration so simple that it is no longer an obstacle or a burden to venture into new business models in partnership with others. The simpler integration enables to the creation of business models based on third-party APIs. By using 3rd party APIs for all subsidiary services like user management, logging, dashboard, deployment, etc., IT developers can focus on adding new value propositions to the existing application related to the core offering of the enterprise. The focus of development is purely on the implementation of business logic and not on spending time implementing the skeletal structure of the app.

APIs make it easy to deliver extremely personalized experiences. Taking an API-driven approach to application development allows building products focused on each customer’s specific needs. In addition, API integrations ensure that all interactions run independently of devices or platforms from where the application is accessed. This keeps user experience consistent throughout their journey, enabling omnichannel strategies.

Apps developed using an API-driven development approach tend to be modular in nature, with every module representing a service (third-party or own). The main application itself seems to be a collection of these loosely coupled services or micro-apps. This app architecture is called microservices. This approach suits today’s enterprises having distributed hybrid cloud and multi-cloud IT infrastructures, but it is not without some challenges. The popular one is how to make all these loosely coupled services work together.

APIs play a big role in solving that complexity. Each of these micro-apps exposes standard APIs so that they can be consumed by other services, in other words, these micro apps talk to each other using APIs. One major benefit of this architecture is that each service can be scaled separately independent of the others. In traditional monolith app architecture, the entire app has to be scaled, though only a part of the app needs scaling.

How CIOs can ensure APIs add business value?

In many cases, jumping into the API ship without a proper strategy can be counter-productive. It may result in a mess, with redundancies, poor maintenance practices, and limited transparency.

To make the app development process simpler, these two things should be considered:

API Taxonomy -

Initially, APIs were considered intermediaries that integrated and exchanged data between multiple systems. Since mostly the IT department dealt with all things related to APIs, the category used to classify them was usually technical and non-intuitive. This made business stakeholders stay away from API design and prioritization.

But the picture is turning rosy now. Organizations are defining their API taxonomy in a way that can be easily understood by both business and technical users. Categorizing these APIs into those that directly serve the business and those that are technical enablers is the key to realizing the business value of APIs. A sound taxonomy can increase value realization by 25 to 50 percent.

Low-code platforms for API-driven Development -

It is necessary to list the right use cases for the APIs, based on your technology feasibility (back-end readiness, for example) and your business requirement before choosing a low-code platform. A good low-code platform enables both API publishing and consumption and has solid collaboration with the API Management platform as well. The following benefits can contribute a lot to business value:

Overcoming technical hurdles of APIs: Modern REST APIs, though simplified, are still quite technical in nature. There is still technology involved in understanding path versus query parameters, headers, auth headers, API key, etc. A smart low-code platform abstracts these complexities and provides you with a nice UI-based connector to work on.

Auto-generation of APIs - Some of the most common APIs that can be auto-generated can include the services from DB, external services, custom coded business logic, security services, etc. More advanced platforms can also APIfy the SQL queries and DB stored procedures allowing total control for the users.

Automatic conversion of SOAP to REST -  APIs these days are mostly REST-based. But there still remain legacy SOAP-based APIs that the modern low-code platform can automatically convert into REST API endpoint for the app. This auto conversion is especially imperative in an enterprise setup, where legacy baggage is stifling. The automatic availability of REST APIs is a crucial factor in modernizing legacy apps.

Ease of design, testing, and sharing in APIs - In a connected app world, it is imperative that your own app should have easy ways to create, design, and share APIs. Inbuilt tools that can design your APIs (for eg, configure path parameters vs query parameters) with ease, test them (through an integrated testing sandbox), and then publish (private, public access) are important features in any modern low-code platforms. There should also be easy integration to publish these APIs into the enterprise API management platform so that it's instantly available to the API consumers within an enterprise.

Get up, close and personal with APIs

With the proliferation of smart devices, we are heading towards a digital world where everything is connected through APIs. APIs have moved out of the technology bucket and have dived into the bigger picture of business strategy for enterprises. By choosing the right platform, organizations can unlock the true potential of APIs and accelerate their pathway to digital transformation.

Shift from Working in Silos. Achieve Agility Using Low-Code Platforms

Here’s a thought. Every minute, more than one person in the workplace is using an application to connect, communicate, or coordinate. More than one person is responding to emails from their smartphones, digitally updating a sales opportunity, virtually conducting a project meeting, or collaborating to update workflows and tasks.

Welcome to the hyper-connected workplace, a complex ecosystem where people, devices, and applications interact.

Be it an HR application, an instant messaging application, a task management tool, a virtual meeting, or a team coordination application, core business applications have become the lifeline of enterprise operations.

As enterprise applications become easier to develop, everyone in the workplace wants to develop an app for their specific business needs. An app to interact with other peers, to collaborate and share work, for leave management, IT support, project planning and management, content management, resource management, learning and development, the list could be endless. But what about the stamp of approval from IT? What about security and agility? Our Lines of Business (LoBs) working in silos?

LoB Apps - Fighting Functional Silos of Teams Within Teams 

When LoB units, with teams within teams, decide they need a software application to solve a business need, it leads to the development of innumerable enterprise applications.

While this system may solve individual business unit requirements, a need will arise to interact and connect, securely and seamlessly. With this hyper-connectivity comes the need for agility and security, and here’s where the technical challenge arises. The ground reality, however, is that LoB units within themselves and IT are working in silos, while in fact, they need to complement each other.

As digital businesses today need faster release cycles and agile development, ensuring tools, processes, and knowledge skills are established early in the development lifecycle is needed. To bridge silos and improve the performance of application development, a new approach of Agile Operations must be embraced.

The Winning Agile Approach for LoBs in the Application Economy 

Go beyond “Keeping the Lights On”. The core focus of LoB managers is on improving the quality and performance of applications. Maintaining the balance between “keeping the lights on” or reducing operational expenses and innovation will result in operational excellence and internal competency. Adopting an agile approach gives LoB leaders to streamline processes to achieve competency and optimize resources.

With agile development techniques, LoB and IT functions can be connected. IT is part of every business function. With more freedom for developers and LoB managers to develop applications independently, the bottleneck arises when it has to be vetted by the IT team for security and viability. To ensure better collaboration between IT and LoB, and accelerate project delivery, enterprises are embracing agile development practices.

Using Low-Code Platforms to Achieve Agility and Shift from Working in Silos 

A ‘not so secret ingredient to achieving agility is connecting people, devices, and applications seamlessly. Each line of business requires various types of applications specific to their business needs and as LoB applications store valuable data typically in legacy databases, integration with other systems is complicated.

Moreover, LoB apps are built by mainstream developers than business users. For them, innovation and code control are important factors in their development process. Here is where low-code platforms positively impact professional developers to build and maintain LoB applications. low-code platforms provide agility to LoB managers and team members by:

21st-century LoB leaders understand the importance of achieving agility. Low-code platforms empower professional LoB app developers to develop new apps to meet functional needs and bring LoB into the mainstream. In this hyper-connected workplace, low-code makes it possible to connect, communicate and coordinate, seamlessly.

How CIOs Can Drive ROI of Digital Transformation with Low-Code

The role of CIOs has evolved. With the emergence of the app economy, they need to adapt to a hyper-connected world, work with the next-gen, digital workforce, and adopt a strategic role.

To support the fact that the role of CIOs is changing,  the 2019 State of the CIO’ report by IDG states,

“67% of IT leaders are spending more time on business strategist activities to help drive innovation and nurture go-to-market plans.

Over the next 3 years, CIOs expect to not only retain but to expand their newly-established business strategist charter.

77% of CIOs are planning to devote time to activities like driving business innovation.”

What’s your level of involvement? How are you planning to drive business innovation? Where would you start your digital transformation journey? Take a look at our previous post which emphasizes that the best place to start would be at the core, which is IT. 

To achieve digital transformation success, enterprise application development is emerging as an integral aspect. Get to know how you can drive digital transformation ROI using enterprise application development and low-code platforms.

Leveraging the Power of Low-Code

How rapid application development platforms help CIOs drive digital transformation ROI

In modern enterprise application development, ‘transformative technologies such as rapid application development platforms drive ROI by providing ready-made application infrastructure, full-stack development, improved usability with rich user interfaces, predefined best of the breed technology stack, API-driven integration, and business user participation.

By adopting low-code platforms and rapid application development, you can align teams and enable them to focus on innovation providing the necessary support to your digital transformation strategy and revenue-generation initiatives.

Low-code platforms provide the agility to create and deliver custom-built applications that revolve around user preferences, with a speed that resonates to demand. CIOs who utilize rapid application development to implement their DX strategy have a better opportunity to create custom enterprise apps that adapt to experiences rather than devices.

What rapid application development platforms offer that traditional IT development doesn’t is ‘inward-facing agility with intra-departmental APIs. By supporting the development and delivery of custom LOB apps efficiently and on time, low-code platforms ensure enterprise agility.

As traditional software runs out of steam, enterprises can transition IT infrastructure to app modernization using low-code development. With rapid app development and agile integration, CIOs can support the digitally-empowered workforce in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

To realize ROI on modernization and transformation, CIOs need to ensure a culture of innovation, where creativity and productivity are instilled. They have to be committed, involved and encourage technology enthusiasts to work on emerging technologies.

CIO’s ‘Not-so-Secret’ Approach to Digital Transformation Success

Business transformation is all-encompassing, it affects everyone, involves everyone, and requires strategic alignment between processes, people, technology, and culture. There is a ‘not-so-secret approach to digital transformation success. It's the innovation philosophy of design thinking. More than ever before, CIOs are leveraging design thinking (observing and analyzing user behavior to gain insights) when devising IT development strategies. This, however, will be covered intensively in another article.

As a tip-off, there are several sides of digital transformation you need to consider:

Many questions need to be answered, several strategies need to be made, different demands need to be met, now. As they say “take your time but hurry up”, because digital transformation demands velocity!

With transformation comes change

With change comes making choices

With choosing comes responsibility

Make it count!