Application networks can address digital disruption challenges

Published on the 20/09/2016 | Written by Brad Drysdale

application networks

Companies need to find ways to become more flexible to meet changing market and customer demands, writes MuleSoft’s Brad Drysdale…

A recent survey conducted by MuleSoft of 800 IT professionals found that 66 percent feel they are under “drastic” pressure to deliver technology projects across their organisation. A similar number say change has to occur in order to meet business demands.

This is particularly true for larger organisations that use and deploy complex technology in traditional ways and cannot respond quickly to change.

They realise a new approach is needed to unlock the value of existing systems and deliver reusable assets that the business can build on top of to deliver outcomes faster than competition.

The role of the application network
Such a technology strategy is based on the concept of the application network which connects applications, data and devices via APIs to make them’ pluggable’ and to create reusable services. Rather than using point-to-point connections, an application network provides a platform for information exchange by allowing applications to be plugged into it.

An application network can be as simple as two nodes that allow applications to share data, or as complex as infrastructure that spans an enterprise and connects to external parties. They are designed to allow people both inside and outside of an organisation to have controlled access to data and services. They make it easier for someone to create and integrate a useful application, find and access critical data or build and share an API.

Key to the concept of the application network is the idea of reuse. Each node in the network must be reusable elsewhere by other applications via its connection to the network. This occurs through the use of APIs, which control to whom, how and where access is granted.

Application network criteria
Application networks can boost flexibility and responsiveness to change. To be effective, however, the application networks must be designed and deployed with key criteria in mind. These include:

  • A clear definition: Before work begins on the new infrastructure, all parties involved must be clear on exactly what form it will take. This includes defining which applications, data sources and devices will be linked to it as well as the types of APIs that will be used to share information and access.
  • Broad deployment: An application network must empower the entire organisation, not just those in the IT department. It must support the ability for the whole organisation to discover and access the applications, data sources and devices that aid reporting, analytics, business processes and automation functions.
  • Modular, seamless design: The application network must be modular and re-composable to quickly meet rapidly changing business needs. It must also be a seamless network that connects nearly every technology in a standardised way, whether in the cloud or on-premises.
  • Elasticity and scalability: The application network must also be elastic and able to grow (or shrink) depending on the changing demands of its users. It also needs to be scalable and allow the organisation to introduce new applications and data sources more easily.
  • End-to-end monitoring: Data traversing the application network needs to be tracked, monitored and analysed. The impact of a request from one node in the network can therefore be traced back to all the other nodes that take part in that request. The network should also understand dependencies between applications and perform impact analyses on changes made to them.

Outcomes that count
Once an application network has been deployed within an organisation, it will allow organisations to break down traditional information silos while at the same time build and deploy scalable applications and processes faster.

New applications can be plugged into the application network just as easily as you can plug in a printer. The network can deliver a unified vision and control while also offering intelligent data about the relationships between different applications.

In short, a well-designed and deployed application network can provide the flexible and powerful infrastructure organisations need to meet the growing challenges of digital disruption.


Brad Drysdale is client architect, office of the CTO, APAC, MuleSoft

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