Infrastructure

3 best practices for digital transformation

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best practices for digital transformationWe are living in a rapidly evolving digital era, which is underpinned by proliferating technologies based in cloud computing: artificial intelligence, blockchain, and Internet of Things (IoT).

Consumers demand real-time, secure, intuitive, and web- or mobile-based digital services. This evolution will accelerate as 5G cellular service becomes widely available within a few years.

To be more competitive in this market environment, business leaders are establishing digital strategies. IT professionals are under pressure to transform IT by adopting new architecture frameworks, implementing new technologies and managing them alongside established systems.

Digital transformation, from an IT perspective, is the continuum of adopting new technologies, refactoring existing on-premises applications, and integrating them, thereby creating a big fabric of digitalized services across multiple IT environments. This also means that the IT infrastructure becomes more horizontal, application architecture is more distributed, and IT strategy is more focused around securely “connecting the dots” using open technologies and integration platforms.

Here are the top three digital transformation best practices based on real customer experiences in conjunction with market trends:

1. Application refactoring to accelerate digital transformation.

In the early stages of cloud adoption, most organizations analyze their existing applications against cloud suitability and focus on migrating cloud-ready applications first. In doing so, complex monolithic applications are typically identified as “not a good fit” for the cloud and require rearchitecting to be cloud ready.

However, quickly maturing new technologies and architecture framework such as Docker, Kubernetes and microservices enable monolithic applications to be cloud ready. For example, it is possible to decompose a monolithic application by functionalities, such as ordering, billing, cataloging and shipping, then incrementally divide it into containerized components as microservices and deploy them into a Kubernetes cluster in an on-premises cloud for better security.

This refactoring, alongside content delivery network services, enables organizations to digitalize more services and make them available to customers faster, anywhere in the world.

2. Microservice integration to create a fabric of digitalized services in a hybrid cloud.

One of the core components for digital transformation is implementing an integration layer that can weave all types of services inside and outside the organization.

API plays a key role as an enabler for integration in a highly dynamic cloud environment. This integration may appear to be like the service-oriented architecture (SOA) design principle, but SOA is more of an enterprise-level architecture framework, whereas digital transformation requires more granular services using microservices, which are basically the evolution of SOA.

Digital transformation calls for modern integration using lightweight microservices for more flexibility and agility. Also, if APIs are heavily used for intercommunications among many microservices, an API management tool in addition to Kubernetes will be necessary to orchestrate and control possibly millions of API transactions across multiple environments.

Even the API management tool can be containerized for scalability and deployed into an on-premises or public cloud, thereby creating an API economy and delivering new digital services to customers around the globe.  Moreover, microservices architecture, along with an API management solution, enables organizations to easily integrate with cognitive services such as facial recognition and bring higher business values.

3. Single-view management for operational efficiency.

Too much of a focus on modernizing monolithic applications and creating cloud-native applications for delivering more digital services may cause organizations to lose visibility into highly dynamic applications and data transactions in the cloud. This can result in operational gaps, security vulnerability and, eventually, systems failure.

An IT organization undergoing a digital transformation is likely to deploy applications and different components of their IT systems into a hybrid environment. For example, front-end mobile applications run in public cloud A, databases are deployed in virtual private cloud B, and their master data resides in on-premises systems (systems of record). In addition, developers continuously push updates on microservices using multiple, automated DevOps pipelines, which are integrated within a Kubernetes cluster.

How can the operations team monitor and control all these distributed components? Digital transformation from an IT operations perspective means consolidating monitoring and control functions while also maintaining a “single-pane-of-glass” view over applications and systems across multiple environments. This will help reduce the risk of non-compliance, enhance security and prevent catastrophic system failure or service interruptions.

Digital transformation calls for refactoring monolithic applications into microservices, integrating the microservices with other applications or databases across multiple clouds, and consolidating the functions of monitoring and control over microservices and compute resources across multiple environments.

This will enable IT organizations to effectively digitalize their IT assets so they can combine them with other services and swiftly expand their digital business. IBM offers IBM Cloud Private as a software package that can be easily installed and create a private cloud on premises. It is built on Docker and Kubernetes and provides containerized middleware — such as WebSphere Liberty, APIC, MQ — and other tools in a Helm catalog for simple deployment. IBM designed it to help organizations apply best practices for digital transformation and quickly expand their business into a global digital economy.

Contact me on Twitter @dsong12 or LinkedIn to learn more about IBM Cloud Private capabilities, use cases and benefits from a digital transformation perspective.

IBM Cloud Advisor

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