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Cloud, mobile, Web app integration is top software issue: Expert Q&A

In this Q&A, Dave West advises on strategies for app integration issues faced by today's software developers, architects, project managers and CIOs.

Dave West, chief product officer, Tasktop TechnologiesDave West

The importance of integration to software delivery strategies rises dramatically as the number of platforms applications reside on increases and change at a faster pace. Unfortunately, traditional integration approaches are not cutting it on Web, cloud and mobile devices, particularly Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms.

According to Dave West, chief product officer for Tasktop Technologies Inc. and former Forrester Research president and research director, application integration problems are a top reason why businesses -- and their enterprise architects and project managers -- can't deliver business innovation at the speed demanded by customers using all these application platforms.

In this Q&A, West advises on strategies and lays out current pressures software integration puts on software developers, architects, project managers and CIOs.

Today, he'll be sharing more advice and a Tasktop announcement at EclipseCon Boston 2013. What is driving software app integration to top-of-mind for software professionals?

Dave West: There are three primary drivers to the rise of integration as a primary design goal in application lifecycle management (ALM) architecture.

  • The maturing of SOA and the underlying technology to enable us to build modular, decoupled systems. SOA has taken its time to mature, but software is increasingly being architected around data coming from Web services.
  • The acceptance of SaaS and the emergence of Platform as a Service (PaaS), which are driving developers to create applications in a very different way.
  • The explosion of devices and the rise of mobile. Because of the sheer number of mobile platforms and devices, developers and vendors have to reduce complexity and provide software that is assembled in parts. [High-tech business strategist] Geoff Moore describes the new world as the rise of "systems of engagement" that are now building on hosted and REST-based "systems of record." To deliver business value, you must to connect these two types of systems, not only at the data level, but at the lifecycle level. That requires integration

Which software pros are most affected by increasing application integration needs?

SOA has taken its time to mature, but software is increasingly being architected around data coming from Web services.

Expert Dave West

West: I think the question should be who is not affected. Software developers need to start writing software in a very different way. Testers need to determine different test strategies. Operations need to think of different delivery and deployment models. Even business analysts and project managers need to view features and development processes differently.

Perhaps the two groups affected most are the enterprise architects and project managers.

  • Architects must consider both the end points (i.e., services) and glue (integration) and come up with strategies that deliver value and reduce risk in both of these areas. The term "integration architect" seems to be a mistake. It pigeonholes integration into one person or role; unless the architect is responsible for driving the integration strategy into the whole organization, he or she will become a bottleneck.
  • One interesting role that changes when integration becomes more important is that of the project manager. Project managers must put processes in place that take into account the fact that many services they are consuming are not built or maintained by their organization or domain of control. Thus, they need to enable a software delivery process that connects to the development of these services. In simple terms, their project plan and change management plan need to include the service provider organizations. That means their approach has to change from control to adapt-and-respond. It also means they need far more information on the status of that service in terms of defects and future versions. It's an interesting change for project managers.

What specifically is different about software app integration today from how it was five or 10 years ago? 

West:Ten years ago we had many ideas, technology and programming paradigms to enable modular, decoupled software to be written, and we saw huge growth in enabling technology as organizations moved to enterprise service buses (ESB) and Web-based architectures. But over the last three years, with the rise of cloud and mobile, the sheer consumption desire is driving a different sort of usage. Add to that the pace of change, and that means the process and practices for software delivery must adapt. It is essential they adopt the idea that they themselves are enabling in the business. Thus, the processes for software delivery must change to support a modular, dynamic, Agile development approach that delivers software far more frequently than ever before.

For example, during this interview, my Android phone has downloaded two new updates to my app collection. If you are connecting to those apps, how do you deal with that level of change? The traditional approach was to stick your head in the sand, ignore the change and wait for your new release to pick up those new services. But in the age of the empowered user and customer, that will not cut it. Thus, you need to see the change and quickly adapt. Makes building a project plan a little difficult, hey?

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Which application platform -- cloud, Web or mobile -- is causing the most headaches for you now?
The platform that is giving me the most headaches right now is cloud. Primarily because we have been moving from a LoadRunner implementation for our performance and load testing needs to a cloud-based implementation. The main headache comes from the fact that our cloud instances in AWS predate the introduction of a default VPC, so we’re using a custom VPC. Unfortunately, the cloud-based load testing tool that we’ve selected does not, out of the box, work with our custom VPC. The vendor is working on a release that will work with a custom VPC setup the way we have ours setup, but it was not available when we needed it.
integrations are a colossal pain; but financial guys don't care. As long as it's cheap, they think clouds are great. As a CIO, to me it's just another island of data with a huge tollbooth in between.
Definitively Clouid is
cloud most headaches
In my opinion, cloud is just like Black Box, where we need to work and explore more and find more reliable solutions.
Cloud is just black box. Not good.
Cloud is the most critical due to security and privacy.
May be platform 3.0 is the answerOMG, another middleware!!
App integration can be a hassle. Every app is a little different, not all were designed with 3rd party consumption in mind.  One might have a log file, one might produce a PDF report, one might give a visual analysis of a process in motion.  These issues don't really change much if you move to the cloud.
CLoud introduces issues that require a bit more than black box testing.  How you handle load, how you schedule maintenance, how you decide to scale up or out as demand changes all are very important.