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December 10, 2020

What Is Composable Enterprise?

Digital Transformation

Composable enterprise represents an emerging opportunity for adapting faster. In this blog, we break down composable enterprise, packaged business capabilities, and how to leverage them with Akana.

What Is Composable Enterprise?

Composable enterprise is an approach to design that embraces the API economy, delivering business outcomes through the assembly and combination of packaged business capabilities.

As businesses evolve to meet the changing needs of customers, new operating theories have provided a means for scaling technology. Yet, the pace of technological advancement has continued to increase, putting pressure on enterprises to adapt faster. Modern organizations must evolve in a world dominated by personalization, connected digital experiences, on-demand everything, voice technology, artificial intelligence, and increased digitization of traditional business models. 

Composable enterprise is an emerging concept from Gartner. Here's their definition:

“An organization that delivers business outcomes and adapts to the pace of business change. It does this through the assembly and combination of packaged business capabilities (PCBs). PCBs are application building blocks that have been purchased or developed.”

- Gartner: Future of Applications: Delivering the Composable Enterprise

While many enterprise CIOs and technology leaders have scaled digital transformation programs in an attempt to keep up, these efforts prove difficult to implement. According to IDG, just 7% of organizations have fully implemented a digital-first approach when it comes to digital transformation. In addition, just 37% of organizations say they are implementing workforce transformations to ensure their processes, staff, structures and employee skills support a digital business.

As many organizations struggle to fully implement digital transformations, the composable enterprise framework offers a new path to success. So how does composable enterprise work?  

Packaged Business Capabilities and APIs

APIs streamline interaction and communication across the enterprise. Which is why a comprehensive API Management strategy is a critical component to the success of packaged business capabilities (PCBs).

But what exactly are PCBs?

As enterprises have attempted to update legacy and monolithic applications, many have found it impossible to keep legacy technology relevant amidst the rapid pace of change. In addition, business capabilities developed within monolith applications are often not readily available for reuse and consumption in other realms of an enterprise, even when similar business requirements exist.

In response, packaged business capabilities offer a nimble application and services portfolio approach. By compartmentalizing and connecting key software and microservices, organizations can scale up critical business functions more rapidly, without the trouble of either re-tooling monolithic applications, or redeveloping existing capabilities.

Packaged business capabilities expose APIs, allowing application teams (often known as fusion teams) to repurpose these capabilities and compose available services into new and different applications. Capabilities are fused by combining existing and quality components, tailoring new functionality to address unique business needs and use cases. Applications that utilize these existing building blocks can be developed much faster. In the end, the composed application does not need to know how these business capabilities are implemented behind the APIs, but rather can focus on assembling and orchestrating the right set of capabilities.

Full lifecycle API management allows for systems integration across PCBs, including API design, implementation, security, lifecycle management, monitoring, and publishing of APIs. API developer portals allow application developers and fusion teams to discover, test and, learn about the capabilities currently available across the enterprise.  In short, APIs are the glue, allowing enterprise architects to coordinate and scale packaged business capabilities across a complex digital enterprise.

Unraveling Service Mesh and API Management

While packaged business capabilities are important, multiple technical approaches exist for making them a reality. One such approach is called mesh app and service architecture (MASA) or service mesh. In short, these are the gears that grind away behind the scenes, or the systems design approach to achieving a composable enterprise. Service mesh allows for greater connectivity between microservices, independent apps, and autonomous digital services.

This approach enables a fluid and dynamic application framework, allowing organizations to build composable mesh applications with the following characteristics: 

  • Adaptability: Ready-built to scale up or down based on rapid digital shifts 
  • Cloud-native and multicloud: Hosted in a cloud or multicloud environment for optimal availability
  • Omnichannel: Seamless user experiences across all channels
  • APIs: Modern approach to connect entire digital ecosystem and legacy frameworks

Service mesh frameworks require a strong API Management strategy. As you scale mesh applications, the security, usability, and scalability of apps will be directly linked to the health of their API networks. While many organizations may choose a manual approach to APIs, API Management software can provide scalability through an all-in-one solution. This includes gateways, developer portals, analytics, lifecycle management, and security. Unfortunately, tackling each of these on their own can often lead to inefficiency and pose security risks.  

One final and important aspect in defining composable enterprise are the organizational factors influencing its success or failure.

The Composable Enterprise Workforce 

In order to adapt, business leaders must also address the talent gap that many organizations currently face. A critical component for the long-term success of a composable enterprise includes mapping business needs, target outcomes, and related technology with a workforce and vendors prepared to innovate. The composable enterprise is changing the workforce in several ways, including: 

  • IT and business leaders must align around common goals 
  • Vendors, technical staff, and freelance workers must collaborate at rapid pace 
  • New management methodologies are required to enable speed of change
  • Application-specific and additional technical partners are necessary to scale
  • Innovation teams built around proof-of-concept efforts can inform the broader business

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a composable enterprise won’t be either. Even while many struggle to adapt to technological shifts, modest composable enterprise efforts can provide a path to future growth. The composable enterprise model has proven useful in enabling faster application builds, reuse of existing reliable services, scaling services on business use cases, and providing customers with multi-experience solutions.

To learn more about Akana by Perforce, download The Forrester Wave™: API Management Solutions 2020.

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