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July 26, 2016

Core IT system are too rigid to change – CIOs must work inwards from the edge

CEO briefing: New apps and services can’t be shoehorned onto legacy enterprise IT says TIBCO CEO.

By James Nunns

Operating IT at different speeds has become something of a necessity for a number of businesses that are maintaining legacy systems but need to be able to offer the latest features to its customers.

Take a retail bank for example, the core demands such as an account system is pretty static and they are unlikely to want to make a lot of changes to those core systems, so the new development that relates to the channels, such as mobile, are happening on the edge.

The idea of operating on the edge is growing in popularity as vendors such as HPE, and Cisco push the idea of edge analytics, but for Murray Rode, CEO, TIBCO, there are some differences to what his company is doing.

“We all talk a little bit using the same terms and there is some overlap but there are some differences, to me the notion of edge is about pretty simple dynamic core vs edge which is the central systems that drive the business,” Rode told CBR.

Essentially what banks and other firms are wanting is a way to develop technology faster, as Rode puts it, “the want technology that soft or sits between the edge and the core that provides a kind of mediation layer between the different dynamics of those systems.”

A number of TIBCO’s customers are doing just that in order to have common services, and more rapid development on the edge. This is because change on those various channels is much faster than the functionality that is being provided.

Rode said: “They want the ability to change at different speeds on the edge while maintaining some stability in the core so you need something that mediates those different clock speeds and that’s really where our tech comes in, that kind of mediation layer.”

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For many businesses this ties into their digital transformation projects which are in essence all about creating a richer experience for the customer.

Take an airline for example, it has only been a few years since customers shifted from wanting to deal with people when they booked their flights to wanting a fully digital experience. Now when a customer flies they want to book everything online and only ever talk to a person when they get to the gate.

“That end-to-end digital experience is actually a pretty complicated integration, it’s an interconnection of many services and systems to give me that on a mobile device,” he said.

Finding a way to do this but operate with legacy is where some of the complexity lies, which is why edge operations is proving a successful way to move forward.

While he doesn’t say this is about ‘getting around’ legacy, he said: “It’s more how do I take an asset that works for me and leverage it in another context, it is about gaining leverage.”

“That’s why if they can encapsulate those legacy systems, let them do what they do today, which in some cases they do very well, they are not necessary choke points for the business, as long as you do not ripple every change from the edge back to the core.”

That he said is a fundamental issue, if a business can make changes on the edge and not have that tangibly impact the core then it will give them, “tremendous flexibility in terms of how those edge systems are changing.”

The proof of this is in the example of banking, a rigid industry that is dominated by goliath IT machines that were very good at doing certain jobs, now though they are faced with offering omni-channel services, which legacy systems weren’t designed for.  

Banks now are looking to get a 360 degree view of the customer, maintain relationships across channels, and create a more nimble development environment in order to change services. In order to do this without creating a mammoth sized project is to do it at the edge.

Previously these kinds of changes would have been risky and long term, there would be siloed systems for the different channels and a change at the edge could ripple back to the core. Solving this would be a very complicated exercise even just considering the regression testing.

The two-speed IT concept may not be welcomed wholeheartedly across industries but as long as sectors such as banking maintain legacy but are required to deliver modern digital services, it is likely to be a reality and necessity.

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