Businesses are struggling to stay relevant as the pace of business continues to accelerate and disruptive innovation becomes norm. To compete more effectively, leading companies are pushing Agile practices out from development teams to IT and the organization at large. They’re also integrating internal systems in unprecedented ways to better leverage their software and information assets.

“It’s hard to plan anything today because you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. You still have to plan, but you also have to be able to pivot quickly,” said Steven Willmott, senior director and head of API infrastructure. “A lot of our customers are buying infrastructure technology to enable greater organizational agility.”

More businesses are trying to achieve Agile integration by making APIs available for internal consumption, adopting containers and enabling distributed integration.

“I wouldn’t say all customers are looking at all three of those things in equal measure, but they’re pretty much on everybody’s radar,” said David Codelli, product marketing manager at Red Hat. “In combination, they represent a major shift because they get more people involved in the infrastructure inside the company. More people can contribute, more people can benefit from the work others in the company have done.”

Enabling internal API reuse

Historically, companies have used APIs to connect to third-party software. Now organizations are breaking their software down into smaller pieces and exposing the functionality via APIs so others can consume the functionality rather than building it or buying it themselves.

For example, one airline’s API-first strategy vastly improved the company’s digital profile. Before that, the airline had complicated IT processes that involved a lot interdependencies. To simplify work and enable greater agility, the airline divided its infrastructure teams into smaller teams.

“Each of those teams is responsible for certain APIs that are made available to other teams,” said Willmott. “It’s a great example of organizational change enabled by an API decision.”

Adopting containers

Almost all of Red Hat’s large customers are looking at or adopting container technology because they want to accelerate their development processes and make them more encapsulated. The use of containers also enables greater control over processes.

Before adopting containers, it took Red Hat customer KeyBank three months to deploy any software change. Now changes are deployed weekly. The company used Red Hat’s OpenShift platform to retool everything based on containers so compliance and old processes would no longer interfere with the bank’s ability to build and deploy applications.

“The really interesting thing is that KeyBank was able to bake regulations into the container platform so their engineers can now work in a safer environment,” said Willmott. “People have the autonomy to get things done faster without exposing the company to unnecessary risks.”

Improving distributed integration

Some organizations still use an enterprise service bus (ESB) as a central point of integration, managed by a single team. That model is becoming less viable now as the software landscape becomes more complex and the amount of data grows.

“Mobile apps connect to a lot of backend systems which can get very complicated very quickly,” said Willmott. “The companies able to deliver the most value to their customers are replacing centralized integration with distributed enterprise-wise integration.”

Schiphol, Amsterdam’s largest airport used APIs, containers and distributed integration to build an integrated system that extends out to airport service providers and retailers. The new integration layer was built with Red Had Fuse which produces API end points for each of the airport’s datasets. Now, Schiphol is able to make airport-related information available to its airport partners and traveler’s using Schiphol’s mobile app.

“Historically, anyone who wanted to use integration to innovate had to go through a bureaucracy and hit an ESB somewhere,” said Codelli. “Agile teams are finally able to get the self-service integration they need.”

Other businesses are adopting APIs as an internal architectural component, learning how to implement containers and distributing integration with the goal of competing more effectively. Mastering any one of those endeavors can make an organization more Agile. Mastering all three can be transformational.

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