The steep rise in energy prices and the effects of the pandemic have both highlighted the advantages of having fully agile IT architectures that allow businesses to swiftly adapt to the sudden restructuring of markets or changed patterns of supply and demand.
It is why so many current discussions focus on composability, something that has become key in helping to achieve resilience and agility. Composability enables all kinds of organisations to quickly and easily assemble, reassemble, and adapt applications in line with changing business needs.
In many cases, it is developers who are driving this phenomenon, wanting to move up the technology stack and use less code for faster and more effective delivery of services such as business intelligence or analytics. But agility at the organisational level requires businesses to reconfigure their applications to facilitate new workflows and processes.
Not simply to react to external events, but to create new delivery models. This is all about making the transition from an organisation that uses composable applications to one that is a “composable enterprise”. An enterprise with the architecture to exploit data more fully, managing its use and distribution in a controlled manner across the organisation.
Some sectors have greater urgency about this than others. Healthcare organisations stand out as particularly suited, given the integrated and interoperable nature of such businesses and their partners. For these organisations, successfully implementing composability would empower them to extend interoperability along their ecosystem of applications and increase agility.
Yet although the major public cloud vendors provide the building blocks and components for composable applications, IT departments are constantly fearful they will be locked into costly and restrictive relationships. They value the elasticity of the cloud but want to avoid dependence on specific cloud resources and instead seek freedom and portability. Many will seek to avoid lock-in by using separate systems, but often end up with greater IT complexity by generating data in different locations and formats.
In acute healthcare we can see how such moves can cause significant difficulties. Instead of a fully-fledged electronic patient record system (EPR), for example, which covers the entirety of an individual’s treatment journey, some institutions will go for a best-of-breed approach for a radiology or maternity system and put in place their own integration capabilities to stitch it together. But this is almost always on a point-to-point basis. There is no ability to compose a care plan that sits on top of these capabilities, which is where value occurs.
Striking the right balance that boosts performance
It is not hard to see that there is a balance to be struck between all these considerations, laying the foundations for composable applications without creating the data silos that hinder interoperability and undermine performance.
Being able to deconstruct and recompose some of the many siloed applications in use would make an immediate difference. If applications were more composable, exposed more interfaces and interaction points and had better data sets available, the efficiency benefits would be considerable. The difficulty in an industry such as healthcare, however, is the need to link up so many applications, along with all the challenges of exchanging vast volumes of highly sensitive personal and clinical data.
Much of the talk is about open APIs and moving away from proprietary interfaces and complex national integration mechanisms to an ecosystem delivered by open APIs. But these APIs must be tested and go through certification and accreditation processes.
Connective tissue for organisational suppleness
These are all complex and sometimes competing requirements, but in the urge to find the right architecture, organisations need to consider the smart data fabric, which is ready to provide the connective tissue for composable applications. The smart data fabric approach pulls together different types of data from multiple sources, manages it, cleans it up and makes it fully interoperable for a wide variety of business applications.
It is a more advanced, unified approach that allows organisations to delineate what interfaces an application or component has. Giving real-time visibility to the whole technology stack, it enables organisations to track the flow of information between components and to react to changes in data or events, with direct operational impact. A composable enterprise with true connective tissue finds it much easier to have built-in feedback mechanisms. This allows for the ability to adapt as events unfold, making for an advanced level of agility and faster reactions.
Unification of data creates winning organisations
The unified platform within the smart data fabric harmonises data irrespective of its source, rendering data useable and actionable across different applications. Furthermore, composable applications using artificial intelligence or machine learning demand high volumes of clean data from many sources, both within and outside of an organisation – a requirement that only a unified data platform can fulfil. This is because a wide range of analytics capabilities are embedded directly within the fabric, including data exploration, business intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning.
By adopting the smart data fabric organisations become composable. They gain the modular, composable applications they need, free of vendor lock-in. They can redesign workflows and processes without disruption, arming themselves with the agility, resilience and ability to innovate that the contemporary world demands.
Guest post by Jon Payne, Sales Engineering Manager, InterSystems.