a pig outdoors
Adding a minimal cloud component without making deeper, significant modifications is much like putting lipstick on a pig. PHOTO: mali maeder

Now that we’ve settled into 2017, IT and business leaders have solidified their New Year’s goals for change and growth. For many, the way to achieve their strategic objects is by enhancing efficiency with cutting-edge software solutions.

Leading organizations have established a cloud-first strategy to give their business greater elasticity, while others have simply cloud washed their business, adding a minimal cloud component without making any deeper, significant modifications.

Much like putting lipstick on a pig, this deceptive change gives the on-premises monolithic architecture an OpEx (operating expenditure) facelift in the cloud. But it doesn’t provide the necessary infrastructure modernization to truly spur change and agility to meet market demands.

Microservices for the Enterprise

Native cloud solutions give businesses greater flexibility and scalability to achieve the intended results of the cloud-first imperative. However, we are moving into the next generation of cloud computing, and executives should consider microservice oriented architectures (MOAs).

This model is the ultimate in agility, like a box of LEGOs that can be connected and structured in an endless number of ways.

A microservice model is software architecture comprised of smaller, modular applications in which each app provides a specific function, providing organizations with the flexibility needed to evolve at pace with the constantly changing industry landscape.

This is unlike a traditional monolithic model, which is a rigid composite of function in one stack; a tower of Lego bricks permanently glued together.

Already, the microservice model has enabled leading companies to make vast strides. In fact, it’s what allowed Netflix to transform its business model from a simple DVD rental application to a multi-channel, global streaming phenomena.

Time to Replace Monolithic Architectures

While monolithic service-oriented architectures may have served businesses well in the past, technology continues to evolve according to Moore’s Law. It might seem convenient to have one stack of software applications uniting account information, subscriptions and merchandising to engage customers, but the strategy leaves companies vulnerable when system failures or new capabilities arise.

To illustrate, think of a string of old Christmas lights: when one component of the series malfunctions, the entire string goes out. Difficulties with even a small component of a monolithic model can derail the whole system, leaving businesses to unwind their investments.

A microservice-driven architecture provides greater flexibility in allowing businesses to avoid the “dead string of lights” by quickly and easily switching out components without needing to unwind a strand or risking large failures if a bulb is burnt out.

Microservices Support Agility

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Besides just mitigating risk, businesses that use microservices to deliver experiences can more quickly adapt to changing customer demands.

For example, customers now increasingly expect convenient, portable and user-friendly capabilities enabled by mobile, chatbots and other technologies that are transforming customer engagement.

Microservices serve as the backbone of this transformation, as those technologies interact with systems modularly rather than in blocks.

With a siloed monolithic software stack, a company can’t easily integrate new technology with existing components without impacting adjacent services. In essence, they are stuck with the pieces they have glued together and, like in The Lego Movie, are unable to be creative or innovative.

Continuing The Lego Movie analogy, microservices are technology’s equivalent to the “Piece of Resistance" or the Krazy Glue cap that stopped the antagonist from freezing the world and stifling creativity.

Through microservices, businesses can incorporate innovations with increased flexibility to support ever-changing needs around account data, product data, pricing engines, price optimization, user experiences, etc. This gives companies the options to use more tailored service, allowing them to readily incorporate new capabilities to personalize and respond to rapidly evolving customer and business requirements.

Considering the proliferation and increasing expectations in B2B engagement, being able to accommodate and adopt new capabilities makes a microservices architecture more crucial than ever.

Strategic Steps to Microservices

Though “putting a cap” on the monolithic model for a microservice architecture is necessary, it isn’t always easy. Companies have the potential to be the Netflix of their industry if they make smart investments.

IT decision makers should first look to invest in next-generation platforms that are cloud-native and componentized in microservices.

Next, they’ll want to validate the business objectives in comparison to the technology’s design. IT decision makers should ask themselves: Do we want to try to be a part-time software company and build blindly from a pile of LEGOs, or would our business more greatly benefit from an agile cloud-based microservices package built with leading industry knowledge?

The first step is investing in a microservice driven cloud architecture. Then you can evaluate complementary components that enrich that investment with added sophistication provides the business and customers with more value.

The objective with cloud-first platforms and microservices is to reduce dependencies and development time and focus on the value that best-of-breed cloud solutions provide.

The next generation of enterprise cloud computing is microservice designed.

Organizations should invest today in technology that allows them to be the Netflix of their industry tomorrow. The flexibility and agility that these next-generation platforms provide will enable organizations to exceed their 2017 goals.