What’s All This Fuss About Composability?

Posted by Kevin Mertz on Dec 7, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Believe it or not, composable architecture is a concept that’s been around for a while. There are many articles dating back to 1998 (and possibly beyond) which touch on the merits of taking this approach to designing a reliable and secure network. However, it has become all the rage in recent times due to the unpredictability brought by COVID as well as Gartner’s recommendation that organizations strive for composability. The purpose of this blog post is to help folks understand why this is important and how it relates specifically to customer experience.

First, we can start by defining what composability means and why it became a thing in the first place. Let’s go back to a report from computer scientist Peter G. Neumann in 2004 for an unbiased look at the approach:

“One of the biggest obstacles to software development — and particularly system integration — is the difficulty of predictably composing subsystems out of modules, systems out of subsystems, and networks of systems out of systems and networking.”

He then went on to explain all the obstacles preventing organizations from achieving composability, and then what the perfect world would look like, where the development of complex hardware and software systems could be as simple as snapping Lego pieces together. That was the primary goal of composability 17 years ago—and it remains so today.

Gartner started using the term and putting their stamp on what composability means shortly after COVID generated a tremendous amount of disruption in the marketplace in early 2020. Gartner urged companies to adopt this philosophy to protect their businesses by being resilient and agile in the face of an uncertain future. They went on to define the pillars of composability beyond the architecture – and how they dovetail into composable thinking and composable technologies, as well. Gartner also began to deliver a roadmap for customers by articulating the benefits of composability and what executives should be looking at to modernize their business. Benefits include real-time adaptability and resiliency as the primary business drivers.

The underlying technologies of composability include some combination of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, automation, container-based architecture, big data, analytics, low-code and no-code development, Agile/DevOps deployment, cloud delivery, and applications with open APIs (microservices). The thought of adopting all these technologies can be a bit overwhelming, but let me assure you that it’s not quite as complicated as it may seem. It’s very possible to connect many of these technologies into something that successfully drives a business forward. We’ve been seeing many customers who have adopted composable architecture experience positive outcomes. So, let’s talk about what makes those use cases successful.

I mentioned open APIs and microservices. These are extremely important to achieve some sort of functional integration. APIs don’t talk to other APIs, so typically you need a systems integrator like ConvergeOne to have some sort of connector built to accompany integration between separate applications that are typically spanning multiple manufacturers. Using microservices as the connector protects against what I call a compatibility nightmare, where upgrades or changes to one application can bring down anything and everything else in the architecture that is connected in some way, shape, or form. We don’t want that.

This is where Kubernetes orchestrated Docker containers offer a distinct advantage over traditional monolithic architecture. All these microservices can connect in that environment and meet the goal from long ago of making it as simple as connecting Lego pieces in this way. No longer do we have to worry about the pieces connecting in a certain sequence or pattern; now we just snap any two pieces together and move on to the next piece.

If we can connect applications that simply, we no longer have to worry about being extremely tactical and methodical in doing so—and this is where we start seeing IT departments being more strategic and forward-thinking in their approach. Since systems integrators and IT teams have this newfound agility, we no longer have to go through a waterfall-type approach to project deployment. Therefore, the Agile or DevOps deployment methodology becomes possible where it wasn’t before.

An Agile-type strategy addresses the initial deployment, but what about changes to the environment based on dynamic business objectives? Remember, another goal of composability is to be adaptive, and this is where low-code and no-code development comes into play. What used to take months or years is now taking days or weeks because these code changes are so much simpler and easier to adopt compared to what it used to be with hard coding. As a result, customers are starting to see much faster returns on investment with composable solutions that weren’t available previously.

Now that we have the ability to connect applications in a nimble fashion, what do we do with that new streamlined and efficient architecture? This is where we can currently apply some of the remaining components such as AI, machine learning, automation, big data, and analytics.

We’re seeing many customers become more comfortable with the use of bots to improve customer experience, provide self-service, and improve quality of life for employees using a digital containment strategy. This must be driven by a workflow or business rules engine to have any kind of logic or structured flow that ultimately results in a great customer experience. This is where AI, machine learning, and automation are combined like ingredients in a stew. The exact recipe is defined by the individual customer’s business objectives. But it’s as easy as defining the objective, applying it to the engine, and we’re off. It is so much more effective compared to the traditional IVR approach to self-service. We’re meeting customers on their terms, with the channel of their choice, and regularly seeing 80+% containment rates right out of the gate—and this in turn is relieving some of the stress with staffing issues.

Digital containment also means we are collecting and using more customer data than ever before, hence the big data and analytics components. Businesses must rely on good data that is relatively real time and contains intel that is actionable, otherwise they won’t be able to achieve the goal of being adaptive in an ever-changing environment. This data should be ubiquitous across the entire customer journey to be most effective at achieving these goals, and ideally everything feeds into a single data lake to make that happen. That is the foundation of a great analytics strategy. With that strategy in place, business leaders can get answers immediately and right at their fingertips. It’s not enough to know who the customer is, but also why are they contacting us, what are the resulting actions, and ultimately how do we get them to invest more in our business? That information is now becoming available where it wasn’t in the past.

Finally, there is the cloud delivery consideration. What we’ve found is there is no one-size-fits- all approach that works here. Some applications or sets of applications work better on-premises, some hosted, some single-tenant, some multi-tenant, AWS, Azure, GCP, OSC, the list goes on – all have their place based on business drivers such as resiliency, scalability, required capabilities, financial considerations, and more.

Now that we’ve discussed ways for your organization to adopt composability, how can we help you connect the dots to the intended outcomes your business is trying to achieve? We’re happy to assist in developing your roadmap to success by leveraging our extensive experience as a systems integrator and owner of solutions such as C1 Conversations and OnGuard, which were designed as composable frameworks from their inception. Learn from what’s worked with our customers and tap into our pool of expertise across all the different levels of composability-—and watch your company modernize quickly as a result.



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Topics: Cloud, Customer Experience