API Development

Why Mobile Developers Need a Hybrid Integration Platform

On a list of jobs that didn’t exist 15 years ago, mobile app development would rank near the top in terms of importance. In short order, mobile development has moved from the nice-to-have category to become a critical differentiator for companies eager to meet customers’ ever-shifting expectations.

It hasn’t always been a smooth transition. The emergence of new IT strategies and development trends can make it difficult for mobile developers and IT leaders alike to prepare for what’s next. Among the biggest changes afoot now? IT teams are becoming enablers rather than doers, says Shawn Ryan, VP of Vision and Strategy at Axway. As a result, IT and development teams need a platform to ensure that legacy systems, apps, APIs and other technologies work together to enable innovation.

“The key aspect of hybrid integration is the change in operating model for IT from the factory mindset to the enablement mindset,” Ryan says.

We sat down with Ryan to discuss the changes in IT, and how a hybrid integration platform (HIP) helps mobile developers to support strategic business needs.

How is IT’s role in mobile development changing?

Shawn Ryan: Businesses today must move fast and build great customer experiences. For many companies, the first step toward becoming a digital organization is to build a mobile app. The next step is to reorient the underlying business model to put digital scale and APIs first in a way that serves integrators and innovators in a much larger scale. This is certainly a more complicated proposition than developing an app. Companies are at different places in that journey, but they all recognize the need to move fast.

In this world, integration between apps and services is a challenge because developers are dealing with reams of data, moving that data among applications, and lining up semantics between apps, among other challenges. Companies are also integrating with apps and services that run outside of the firewall, ranging from cloud apps to mobile to things – which creates new integration challenges. APIs are the primary tool that modern developers use to integrate. APIs are lightweight, they’re mobile- and developer-friendly, and they are an important building block for digital innovation.

But it’s more than mobile. In the past, IT departments preferred not to develop anything—the goal then was to buy commercial off the shelf technology full stop. That’s not the case anymore.

Development as a craft is an important differentiator. You can’t buy differentiation out of the box. Companies are not only building mobile apps, but they’re building entire new capability sets and looking at modern development practices from DevOps to microservices architectures.

Our hybrid integration platform supports these architectures, accelerating the pace IT can embrace them while giving corporate IT visibility into the microservices and APIs that are running across the organization.

How has integration traditionally worked—and what’s changing?

Shawn Ryan: In the past, companies would have integration architects (also called integration specialists, or integration developers, or a slew of other titles), whose job was to build and maintain integrations among apps. Integration was all they did—they connected things. Companies that were more mature with mobile would publish APIs in a portal for developers to discover and use to build whatever they needed. Here developers, facing the need to move—and build—quickly working often within lines of business had leeway to build what they needed, and to integrate with other apps and services.

IT might have a company-wide view into what these developers were working on, but often they didn’t. Many companies lacked API management tools. The work was project-based. And, it wasn’t baked into an overarching enterprise strategy. IT departments still largely oversaw traditional rigid integration infrastructure, which made it difficult to deal with the rapid pace of innovation—new apps, new integrations, more data.

Why is integration and governance such an important need?

Shawn Ryan: One of the biggest challenges around mobile is access to data. It’s not building the app itself. Hybrid integration is about removing that challenge, and in doing so, exposing data for developers to use while providing a form of corporate oversight to data.

The good news is that APIs, and other development trends like microservices and DevOps, allow developers to move fast and to quickly build new apps and new functionality that businesses need to stay competitive. The bad news: Too often there was no corporate or IT strategy behind the scenes. Companies lost any sense of corporate governance of where data resided, how it was used, and how it was protected. That opened up more attack vectors and exposed companies to greater risk.

What is a hybrid integration platform—and how does it benefit mobile developers?

Shawn Ryan: This takes us right back to the fact that one of the largest challenges to delivering a great mobile experience is access to data. And data is everywhere across internal systems, cloud applications, at business partners and in data lakes. Further, almost everything in IT is a mix of cloud or on-premises. This creates a challenge for sure. But, that’s not the point of hybrid integration or a hybrid integration platform. Hybrid integration points to a shift in mindset for IT. In the past, IT-related integration operated like a factory. If you needed an integration, or access to data, you’d submit a ticket for the integration team to handle. But that model doesn’t scale or move at the rapid pace that a business needs in order to stay competitive.

IT must transform from this factory model, to an enablement model in which the team offers integration capabilities as a service to whomever in the company needs an integration. And to do that, IT needs a hybrid integration platform infrastructure. Hybrid integration is about better serving developers and integrators outside of IT to help companies innovate and compete in the modern world

How does this look in practice with HIP? IT and integration specialists deliver a self-service integration platform combined with data as a service to integrators and mobile developers outside of IT. They are the customers. They have tooling to extend, build, complete integrations and APIs to serve mobile needs. They are no longer held at bay for access to data but enabled with it through self-service. The likes of our catalog, API Builder and MBaaS services allow mobile developers, aka digital integrators, to browse and discover data services, create opinionated APIs and the backend required to support their initiatives.

Are companies successfully adopting this enablement mindset?

Shawn Ryan: Companies are on the early side of this journey when it comes to the whole of integration. They have often started with single integration patterns and achieved some maturity in offering self-service to integrators for that pattern. We have some very mature customers offering Managed File Transfer (MFT), for example, as a shared service. Others have taken on API management to serve developer communities via a self service portal. Many are on the journey towards a hybrid integration platform holistically.

The key aspect of hybrid integration is the change in operating model for IT from the factory mindset (we’ll do your project next, but we’ll control everything) to the enablement mindset (what tools do you need, and how can IT help?). That’s the big shift. It’s hybrid because it accommodates different integration patterns and a diverse set of personas.

Is this something that IT should build or buy?

Shawn Ryan: We are helping to lead a transition from hybrid integration platforms (HIP) being something that companies build to something that they customize from best-of-breed technologies. It will always be something that companies assemble with other technologies, because no company will rip out the enterprise service bus (ESB) that’s been in place for 10 years and connect every bit of data from all core internal systems.

Our recent platform launch includes an open catalog to share integration artifacts between personas and is open to artifacts from other vendors and technologies. It creates a frame for offering integration as a service to a diverse set of integration personas — and it works out-of-the-box with our technologies and can plug into others.

A smart integration strategy, supported by hybrid integration, empowers developers to create great mobile experiences — and to adopt an enablement mindset. Learn more about how Axway’s Hybrid Integration Platform can help your IT teams make the leap.