Composable enterprise applications will revolutionize the enterprise I.T. landscape and usher in an era of unprecedented personalized capabilities, delivered at scale, weaving a mesh of complementary microservices drawing data from multiple sources for a cohesive experience. The concept of a composable enterprise is at the forefront of analysts’ thought leadership.
In a few years, it may be time to bid goodbye to monolithic multi-million dollar platforms with significant customization and integration needs and vendor lock-in. In this composable enterprise applications or composable enterprise capabilities future, one can purchase a service here and a micro capability there and unbundle the application landscape.
This unbundling vision may come to enterprise applications earlier than your unfriendly giant cable provides who still bundle unwanted, unwatched television stations in bundles that nobody wants. That quip against cable companies aside, the future of composable ERP or applications in general, is exciting and something CIO should plan and champion for.
This is like the revolution that iTunes did with music. Instead of purchasing an album, whether you like all the dozen songs or not, iTunes allowed users to pay for a single song, or of course, a bundled price. In the future, imagine platforms like iTunes that provide some platform-level services and then allow a robust marketplace of software providers to sell their microservices to enterprise buyers.
Imagine if an enterprise needs an ABM (Account-based Marketing) and already has a CRM (Customer Relationship) capability in place. Now, it can subscribe to a microservice from among several vendors who provide an ABM capability. Or, for that matter, consider a capability to reconcile sales taxes across local jurisdictions and globally. Instead of relying on a giant monolithic platform, the enterprise buyer could include that service by singling out the essential features and functions.
The composable application framework will significantly impact how vendors develop software, how the software is sold, and how enterprise buyers purchase.
The Impact and Implications of Composable Enterprise Applications:
Contextual Enterprise Mini Capabilities Hyper-Personalized to Customer Needs: The inevitable march to the cloud is already underway from platforms like SAP to Oracle to new generation suites like Workday and NetSuite, all provide enterprise applications at-scale, on the cloud.
However, the SAAS-ification of the world (Software-as-a-Service) also meant a lack of unique customizations, except industry-specific cloud versions and allowed configurations. This will change in the future – for the better. The last-mile solutions will be small, specific, configurable, and composable to the enterprise’s unique needs as a set of microservices.
Think of it as a horizontal core and super-specialized and vertical edge solutions. The basic general ledger may be similar but will come in a multitude of flavors. The same ice cream core with various flavors and toppings will be identical in a composable enterprise applications framework.
Usage-based, not User-based Subscriptions will Reign:
Today, most SAAS software is based on the classic butt-in-the-seat, per user per month model. In most companies, somewhere between 40-60% of the license holders hardly ever log in, let alone become power users. Everybody feels like they want and deserve access, but it is so sparse that a PDF printout once a month may suffice their needs when it comes to usage.
So in the future, the composable enterprise applications landscape will by default be usage-based, not user-based.
If it is an invoice microservice, shouldn’t the number of invoices be the driving factor, rather than how many users are generating invoices and approving them? Similarly, for G.L. (General Ledger), the number of journal entries or transactions may be the proper measure than how many accounting folks log in to the system. For example, the cloud vendors have made usage-based pricing an art form – you pay for Computer, Storage size, Bandwidth consumed, and the actual number of users is not material.
Release Cycles will Shorten, with Some going to Every Day Schedule:
Legacy software (the old school client-server) may have had annual releases and some patches in between. Thankfully, today in the world of SAAS applications, release cycles maybe a few months or weeks, depending on the application segment.
In the new world of mini capabilities delivered via microservices, the concept of a release cycle may become a notion of a bygone era. Instead, releases may be done every day and some instantaneously – either based on a specific customer demand or a trend that the vendor notices.
This dynamic and almost real-time release cycle would mean that the I.T. departments don’t have to wait for weeks or months to roll out a new release or rollback a release due to complications. Everything will be “Push Whenever,” and it will revolutionize the whole concept of DevOps.
With the concept of AIops (A.I. Operations) coming to the fore, the cognitive engines will determine the necessary fixes and roll them out. On the consumer side (the enterprises), A.I. algorithms will select the most optimal microservice.
It is not long away when one can imagine some closed-loop systems that will emerge to integrate enterprise feedback directly and instantaneously into the product lifecycle – almost in real-time, realizing the vision of a constantly evolving product.
Hallelujah! It will be a Buyers’ Market:
With the proliferation of marketplaces and vendors offering similar capabilities, the balance of power will shift to the enterprise buyers. The switching costs – in terms of lack of vendor lock-in, seamless transition of capabilities from one vendor to another, and the concept of always-available data fabric – will either go away or will diminish substantively that in a given year, companies may jump between multiple providers for specific, segmented mini-capability.
Of course, this does not mean that a vendor with an exceptional differentiating capability cannot create a sought-after capability that enterprises are clamoring for.
App Marketplaces will become Powerful Intermediaries:
Similar to iTunes, App and Microservice marketplaces will emerge and become substantial players. Being a part of a platform ecosystem and becoming a dominant vendor will become a determinant of success. And the marketplaces will not be just intermediaries offering liquidity but will provide an array of platform features and services.
A parallel is the WordPress ecosystem, where a powerful CMS is a foundation for millions of Plugins. Instead of plugins, we will be dealing with APIs and Microservices.
How should CIOs prepare for the Composable App Paradigm?
CIOs and technology leaders should embrace the innovative concept of composable enterprise applications and champion the trend. For enterprise CIOs, the emergence and popularity of Microservices-based capability delivery will be a significant change to the I.T. landscape – in terms of how features and functions are delivered, how they are billed, and how they all excel in a small business capability and play well with others, creating a harmonious symphony with divergent instruments.
Are you ready for the world of composable enterprise applications? If you wish to get a brief from one of the ITBits consultants, please reach out to us.