Imagine digital transformation in the enterprise as like rebuilding your house. You can do it yourself, assuming you have the necessary time and skills, or you can get the experts in. But there is more to it than simply connecting the pipes and hoping for the best. The flow of water needs to be consistent through the house; a torrent from one tap and a dribble from another is no good.
To apply this analogy back to digital transformation, once the platform, or ‘plumbing’ is connected to the system of record, and once the data is exposed, it brings issues like data consistency – such as the flow of water – and security to the fore.
One architectural design which aims to help organisations in this regard is the digital integration hub (DIH). The term was originally coined by Gartner and is defined as ‘an advanced application architecture that aggregates multiple backend system of record data sources into a low latency and scale-out, high performance data store.’
By decoupling the digital applications from the systems of record and implementing a decoupled API layer, not only can innovative organisations allow operational gains for the present in the form of data integration and analytics, it can also help futureproof initiatives by enabling scalable expansions and hybrid deployments.
One company at the forefront of DIH is GigaSpaces, and Shai Zmigrod, SVP sales EMEA, illustrates the potential. “When everybody’s talking about digital transformation, actually we are referring to agility and to the ability to introduce new services at a rapid pace,” Zmigrod explains.
“Many organisations, especially large enterprises, have a lot of data spread over, they want to go and introduce services – they find it very challenging. Many large enterprises grew up out of mergers and acquisitions and the data is not the same across the board – they need to compete with the new companies that don’t have all these legacy issues they are facing right now.
“For example, if you are ordering an airline ticket, you expect the data you see to be 100% accurate and consistent across all digital channels,” Zmigrod adds. “If different data regarding prices, booking information, or frequent flyer points is displayed in two recurring sessions or on the airline website vs. its mobile app – you’re getting a poor customer experience.
“These kinds of things can be very difficult to achieve, unless you decouple the data from respective applications, unless you are using event-driven architecture.”
Where GigaSpaces comes in is through its out-of-the-box solution, SmartDIH. It is both tech- and industry-agnostic, serving a wide scope of verticals such as financial services, digital banks, insurance, retail and eCommerce and transportation.
One good example of how the DIH works is in banking, as a blog post from GigaSpaces CEO Adi Paz explains. As each system of record had a different API, it was impossible to get a single view of the company’s data. With the DIH, the data replication enabled real-time asynchronous replication between four banks across three continents – and expansion from 200 to more than 400 applications was possible.
Zmigrod estimates that the company has spent ‘thousands of man-hours’ on developing both the concept and the solution, so not only does GigaSpaces infers it knows what it’s doing in a very complicated space, it also may, diplomatically, infer the customer might not.
“It’s not easy, by the way, to develop this,” says Zmigrod, with an element of understatement. “When I talk to many prospects, I say ‘we’re not a magician, but you need to think differently.’
“Once they see the product, in 90% of the cases, they say ‘wow, I didn’t know such a thing exists.’ They might be familiar with the architecture concept, but this out-of-the-box solution is something that they are surprised by.”
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the rush to digitisation it prompted in many organisations, may have increased the complexity of their architectures. Companies may have bashed out a project that ought to have taken two to three years instead of three to six months, but they were papering over the cracks.
This realisation has helped accelerate discussions with prospects about how GigaSpaces can assist them in their digitisation journey. “So many built quick and dirty solutions that just fixed [the problem], made sure it can work, but this is not robust enough to scale it, to make sure that it will be working on the next thing,” says Zmigrod. “They understand now that what they have is not sufficient.”
For Zmigrod, digital transformation is a ‘state of mind’; organisations who know what they should be doing, but are somehow not doing so. An example of this is the catch-all idea of moving to the cloud. Gartner noted in February that almost two thirds of enterprise spending on application software will be directed towards cloud technologies in 2025. The cloud, therefore, is not a differentiator.
“Moving to the cloud is just moving the problem from one place to another,” explains Zmigrod. “It does not touch the fundamental of the problem. When people are thinking in a traditional way, they are limiting themselves to what they know.”
Zmigrod is speaking at Digital Transformation Week Europe, in Amsterdam on September 20, and he hopes his presentation will ‘provoke thinking’ among executives and help them get away from what he describes as the ‘faster horses’ mentality, famously attributed to Henry Ford.
Zmigrod will also be delivering a panel discussion on cloud migration strategy alongside technology chiefs from ABN AMRO Bank and boutique hotel chain citizenM.