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Facilitating change with Layered Application Architecture
By: Amy Eager
Nov. 12, 2017 02:15 AM
Companies have always been concerned that traditional enterprise software is slow and complex to install, often disrupting critical and time-sensitive operations during roll-out. With the growing need to integrate new digital technologies into the enterprise to transform business processes, this concern has become even more pressing.
A 2016 Panorama Consulting Solutions study revealed that enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects took an average of 21 months to install, with 57 percent of these projects experiencing timeline overruns. A span of almost two years can be a long time when disruptive change comes in weeks or months rather than years. Any executive that has been around enterprise software implementations knows not only that new systems can take a long time to implement, but can take almost as long to change or update with new technologies.
Drivers of change
Key enterprise software such as ERP, enterprise asset management (EAM) and asset performance management (APM), must evolve to address the need for digital transformation. The traditional monolithic enterprise solutions may have suited past business models, but are now often unable to implement new technologies quickly or support companies as they branch out into new geographies with different regulations to consider.
To help address this need, enterprise solutions a decade ago started to move to a more flexible service-oriented architecture (SOA) that can be developed and deployed in a modular fashion. One of the main strengths of a layered architecture is the ability to separate each function. For example, the presentation tier doesn't need to pull information from, or store it in, the database or execute on the business logic, it just supports the various user interfaces accessed by end users. This makes it easier to develop, test and maintain the application as changes made in one layer do not directly affect any others. Whereas if there was no segregation between the parts of the application devoted to presenting data and the portions that contained the business logic or data storage tiers, you have a single monolithic block of code which is extremely difficult and expensive to change.
Enter layered application architecture
With SOA, components within the structure are organized into layers, with each one performing a specific function--the presentation tier to present data to the end user, the business logic tier to process information, and the data storage tier to hold the information. But modern layered architecture takes this one step further by creating separate layers that can contain modifications to the code or customizations that users can make to how their application performs. This approach now makes the adoption of new business processes and technologies a lot easier.
With layered application architecture, companies can use powerful personalization and configuration features to tailor the enterprise solution to fit their specific work processes and routines as needed. For example, businesses can create user-defined fields and custom events to notify specific employees via pop up message on tablets or smartphones that a customer order just placed is below an approved margin. This can even be extended by providing a warning or even stopping a customer order, which previously would have to have been done via modifications.
This approach can help removes the need for full-scale modifications, decreasing the cost and time of implementing software upgrades. And because these user-defined changes are segregated in their own layer of the application, they remain in places as the software is upgraded.
Still need to modify source code?
Layered architecture also handles country- or region-specific localizations, meaning organizations can rapidly expand into new regions while region-specific functionality is implemented in each geographic area. By getting rid of the need for modifications, layered application architecture can help lower total cost of ownership (TCO) as remaining modifications can be easily moved over to new versions without being rewritten
Unlike modifications - which must be supported by the solution provider and therefore increase maintenance costs - configurations carry no added support cost. These configurations or personalizations can also be accomplished entirely by the user, even with more complex changes such as when an existing database field needs to be changed.
"We make heavy use of the configuration layer," Alex Ivkovic, Director of IT at CDF Corp. said of his company's instance of IFS Applications 9, which offers a layered architecture. "We have used it to create an entire system for sending samples to customers, with custom pages and fields. I had a call this morning with a manager who wanted two custom fields just to track different processes and for reporting purposes. We have no modifications, and I believe this is the way to go. But other customers I interact with have told me they have been able to significantly reduce their use of modifications by using the configuration layer."
Since implementing layered application architecture, CDF has avoided additional investments in services and support costs that modifications while increasing its agility by being able to get the latest updates and functionality - all without disrupting day-to-day operations.
Laying the foundation for the future
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
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All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-4, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
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