Six typical integration challenges that agile integration can solve

Red Hat conceived the agile integration concept to help our customers tackle integration challenges more effectively. As we described in an earlier post in detail, agile integration is an architectural approach centered around application programming interfaces (APIs) and API management. At its core, this concept resides on the following three pillars: distributed integration for greater flexibility, containers for the ability to scale better, and managed APIs for re-usability and hence speed.

When we started designing this concept we actually started from two premises:

  1. Agility today is the most important business capability — especially for incumbents in traditional markets.
  2. Every organisation has integration problems.

Typically in most companies nowadays the integration function is centralized and hence technically as well as organizationally a bottleneck. Our two premises contradict each other and we set out to design an integration concept that can solve this contradiction.

In order to come up with a solution that really helps our customers solve their integration problems in the best possible way, we first analysed the market to understand what actually are the problems that users are trying to solve. Although there are of course a very wide variety of often very fine-nuanced problems, it turned out that we could classify all the problems into six typical integration challenges. The following diagram summarizes these challenges and we then discuss each of them in more detail.

Agile Integration: Six Challenges

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Taking Control of your IoT APIs

At its core, IoT is all about data: data from devices, commands to devices, integrating IoT data with other data to gain insights. The data sources include devices, enterprise applications, vendor/partner systems, service providers and customers. The point-to-point integration between these various systems is not feasible; hence, APIs become the primary means of communication between these disparate systems. A clean architectural approach is the one suggested by the agile integration concept. APIs are central to this concept, which allow data to be shared securely between internal and external systems. The opening of APIs enables a company to provide uniform data and transaction interfaces to internal and external developers, partners, and customers, for improved data access and control of remote resources. By providing well-defined APIs, developers can use data in a programmatic manner; e.g., app developers can get access to IoT devices data without worrying about the underlying hardware interfaces. Considering the importance of APIs for IoT, it’s imperative for an organization to manage these APIs effectively. In fact, APIs have been called a fundamental enabler of IoT however, without an effective API Management solution, API sprawl can easily lead to catastrophe.

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The Role of Agile Integration in Open Banking

In the mid 90s, Bill Gates famously said that “banking is necessary, banks are not.” There is certainly a lot of truth in this statement. We all need banking services in some shape or form. But who delivers these services to us is secondary. In fact, Accenture concluded in a study conducted in 2016 asking over 30,000 people in 18 countries that if the tech titans like Google, Amazon, or Facebook would offer such services, 31% of the respondents would switch to them. This clearly imposes a significant threat on traditional banking institutions.

Another challenge that banks are facing worldwide are the increasing demands for regulatory compliance with respect to openness. Such regulations include, for instance, Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) in Europe, the Amendment Bill to Japanese Banking Law in Japan, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) with the Unified Payment Interface, UK’s Open Banking standard by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), or the Open Banking Regime by Australia’s Federal Government. Banks approach these regulatory challenges in many different ways. Some see it as a serious business threat and only do the bare minimum for compliance; others see it as an opportunity and with smart investment start building banking platforms for the future.

Our suggestion for building the banking platform of the future resides on the principles of agile integration, which is an architectural approach centered around application programming interfaces (APIs) and API management. At its core, agile integration resides on the three pillars: distributed integration for greater flexibility, containers for the ability to scale better, and managed APIs for re-usability and hence speed. We described the details in an earlier post.  

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How to Address the Challenges of a Pervasive Integration Strategy

Earlier this months at the Gartner ITxpo event, Massimo Pezzini presented the challenges that must be addressed by a pervasive enterprise integration strategy. In summary there are four types of hybrid challenges (see Massimo’s diagram below).

Gartner-HiP

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What is agile integration?

If you Google the term “agile integration,” you’ll come up with about 30 million results, but they focus heavily on one area: continuous integration within agile development. That definition of agile integration is based on the build environment.

However, it is possible to have another definition for “agile integration,” one that looks at the platform architecture.

In this definition, “agile” doesn’t relate to the process or the infrastructure, but to the flexibility and adaptability–the agility–of the application architecture. Integration within this context has a more strategic role, as the architectural framework that defines the interoperability of services and with a focus on the application functionality.

Traditional vs. agile as an architectural approach

There are functional similarities between traditional integration and agile integration – like routing, connectivity, and orchestration capabilities. The difference between traditional enterprise application integration and agile integration is not in the tasks performed, but in the strategic perspective of those tasks. Put simply, integration can be viewed as a necessary but often limited part of the infrastructure (traditional) or it could be viewed as the core framework of the application architecture (agile).

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Integrating SOAP based Web Services into Red Hat 3scale API Management

In Red Hat 3scale API Management, we can manage any HTTP(S)-based APIs – including REST and SOAP. With REST, it is particularly straightforward as individual URL paths usually map quite nicely to operations. By operations, we mean fine-grained tasks and services which providers may wish to  a) get visibility into and b) apply control access to.

With SOAP, there is more of a challenge, as it is typical for multiple operations to share the same endpoint. Yet providers may still want to get the same visibility and control they get with SOAP as they get with REST.

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Low Latency API Management for Microservices framework Light-4-J – with Red Hat 3scale

In an earlier blog, we wrote about how very low latencies in Java-based microservices can be achieved through our plug-in wrapper. That solution was general in nature, applicable to any API service.

In this blog, we show that the plug-in wrapper is applicable to a specific microservices framework – the open source microservices framework Light-4-J. In particular, we took an implementation of a microservices chaining tutorial, built upon it, and applied our Java plug-in wrapper API management component to it.

As we stated in our first blog, this approach may be well used for a particular use-case, i.e. internal API traffic, typically microservice to microservice. Services exposed to external parties, outside the DMZ, can continue to use the API gateway deployment for its routing and security capabilities. And indeed this differentiates Red Hat 3scale from other vendors in that both the plug-in deployment and the gateway deployment are feasible.

Figure 1 – Plug-in approach: API Management intelligence and configuration are decoupled from traffic enforcement and reporting

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Go Anywhere API Management: 3scale API Management adds a Fully Containerized On-Premises Version

Today is a special day for the 3scale team at Red Hat. It’s been just 10 short months since the company joined Red Hat in the summer of last year and there has been a buzz of activity for the entire time.

One of the biggest new goals was to add a fully on premise version of the 3scale API Management product to the line up alongside the existing Software as a Service (SaaS) version. Hence the team is very happy to announce the availability of that new version which is now generally available. Get started looking at 3scale’s customer portal page.

Launching the on-premise version is special for two reasons. First, because increasing numbers of customers are now running large numbers of public and private APIs – often deep in their internal infrastructure. Deploying API Management in their own data center or in a cloud environment they own is often a key part of succeeding. Second, it is special because of the way on-premise is being delivered. Specifically the new product is shipping entirely on Red Hat’s powerful container management platform, OpenShift.

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Accelerating Time To Value In The New Digital Economy

Cross-posted from the Red Hat Services Speak blog.

Today, most organizations have significant internal datasets and digital services. These resources have the potential to be converted into new revenue streams by securely exposing them to customers and partners as web services. The availability of a number of open source web service frameworks, has meant that it has never been easier to develop RESTful APIs and expose these resources to customers. This allows organizations to validate an idea or hypothesis and capture customer feedback in a matter of weeks or possibly even days.

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f9/Open-APIs-v5.png

While the internet has leveled the playing field in delivering new products and services, paving the way for small companies or startups to compete and disrupt far larger and better funded organizations, it has also meant that competitors can bring their own offerings to market more quickly than ever before. Developing a sustained competitive advantage for products and services has never been more important.

Every successful web services organization has one thing in common. They each adopt an agile approach to software development and have an obsessive focus on customer centricity. This allows them to significantly reduce the time it takes to incorporate customer feedback into their products and services. Reducing the time from months to weeks or days means they can often increase the feedback effect by a factor of 10x. The ability to reduce the time from idea to customer validation will be one of the greatest contributors to help organizations sustain a defendable competitive advantage.

Organizations that grew up as digital service providers have already figured out how to securely and reliably provide services over the internet, but what about organizations that are going through digital transformation and entering new territory? Developing and sharing web services outside of an organization requires significant additional effort compared to simply exposing services internally. It is necessary to increase the focus on security, scalability, reliability, track consumption, access control, ensure Quality of Service (QoS) and subsequently bill customers. Building this capability from scratch requires significant heavy lifting and resources, resources that would be better served developing web services rather than a management platform to support them. To this end, most organizations adopt an API management platform to remove this burden and allow their teams to focus on what’s truly important, developing digital services to meet the needs of their customers.

Back in June 2016, Red Hat acquired 3Scale, a leading provider of API management. In addition to addressing the challenges I’ve highlighted around API management, 3Scale also provides valuable data analytics that can be used to show how customers are using each service. This further amplifies the feedback signal from customers and allows organizations to be even more customer centric.

Is your organization going through a process of digital transformation? Are you exploring creating web services to expose datasets and digital services to customers and partners? Do you need help developing an API management strategy and platform to support your business? If so, please contact the Red Hat Consulting team so we can help accelerate your journey towards open innovation.

Oxford Dictionaries API competition 2017: help the world work, play, and communicate

Oxford Dictionaries runs a global API competition, and Red Hat and the 3scale team are more than happy to support this initiative. Find more about the competition here.

Oxford Dictionaries powers a huge range of technologies, apps, and digital services. Their world-renowned dictionary data powers search engines, provides definitions in e-readers, and makes predictive text and language-learning software possible. On top of their rich language data, which is integrated with cutting-edge technology, they provide an outstanding API. Oxford Dictionaries uses that to work with partners across the globe to create some of the most flexible and reliable platforms and services in the world.

Here is what the folks from Oxford Dictionaries have to say about their competition:

At Oxford Dictionaries, we love language, and we want the world to communicate more easily. So, to celebrate language, communication, and the launch of our API, we’re holding the Oxford Dictionaries API competition. To enter, simply create an app that uses one or more of the languages in the Oxford Dictionaries API. It doesn’t matter if your app is an existing application that has recently integrated Oxford Dictionaries data or a brand new app; already published in an app store or never-before publicized. You can enter as an individual or as a team. We want to see what you can create!

The winner and four runners-up will be showcased on our site and receive PRO subscriptions to our API and a collector’s mug, and we will send all entrants a collector’s T-shirt. You can find out more about the competition and how to enter here.

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