The key elements of systems in a digital business need to be real-time and distributed. In large part, digital transformation is about creating the nervous system for the business. EDA is a breakthrough approach that helps realize this. Solace helps companies create real-time, agile and responsive IT architecture based on EDA.
BW Businessworld caught up with Arvind Khurana, Regional Vice President – Indian Subcontinent, Solace Corporation, to get an understanding about how EDA helps organizations realize the goals of digital transformation. In his role, Arvind works with enterprises and global SI partners in delivering digital transformation and digital nation development projects. Excerpts from the interview:
What do you make out of the trend of real-time enterprises and being digital?
Enterprises are becoming more and more real-time as customers increasingly demand for speed. For example, customers now expect a phone top-up or recharge to happen instantaneously. The same is expected of cross-selling and upselling.
In the BFSI sector, payments are now real-time— you make a payment online and the transaction is immediate. Globally, loans are becoming real-time and India is not far behind. Insurance policies and claims are becoming real-time too.
The need to become more real-time and focus more on the customer experience requires that application architecture needs to be upgraded concurrently. The channels, order management systems, back-office systems, fulfilment, delivery, warehousing, credit collateral management and various other industry-specific systems have to be connected and operate in real-time too.
So, to be real-time, enterprises need to create a digital nervous system.
Solace talks about helping enterprises become event-driven. What’s this technology about?
Batch processing is no longer good enough, thus giving rise to the demand for event-driven architecture.
We need to understand that every business process is a series of events — whether it is a click on a phone, a loan application submission or a stock market trade. For an enterprise to truly operate in real-time, all these events need to flow in real-time between systems that can process them, derive insights, and make quick decisions. Events are then routed among these applications in a publish/subscribe manner according to subscriptions that indicate their interest in all manner of topics.
This is how the promise of a digital nervous system is realized. Solace provides an event streaming platform, which constitutes of event brokers deployed as an “event mesh”. We allow business flows to be dynamically choreographed based on each business component’s interest and capability. This makes it much easier to add new applications, as they can be directly plugged into the event stream without affecting any other system, thus allowing for a truly real-time, agile, and responsive IT architecture.
In India, our event broker technology helps clients like Airtel and Jio provide, deliver and bill next-generation content and services by accelerating the flow of information through their backend systems. In the case of Airtel, we’ve helped to cut their provisioning time to satisfy prepaid recharge requests to just mere seconds, improving customer satisfaction and retention.
What specific goals in the digital transformation does event-driven architecture (EDA) achieve? Are there alternatives to this as in any other approaches or architectures to achieve the same goals?
Businesses now need to respond to events in real-time to take advantage of new business opportunities and stay competitive. To do that, their applications have to be more event-driven. EDA is both real-time and distributed, which are key elements required for digital transformation in today’s world.
An event is an occurrence. When an event happens, multiple systems may need to process the event in real-time. For example, for when a payment initiation event takes place, validation, fraud and notification engine all need to act on it.
EDA’s parallel nature of handling the event stream, and generating more events is a much more responsive, agile architectural paradigm than compared to other approaches such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) or middleware-based orchestration (also called enterprise service bus approach) following business policy rules or data integration using the ETL (extract-transform-load— gather and collate data from different sources and load it into data warehouses) approach.
Industry disruptors such as Jio use Solace’s event broker technologies to modernize legacy applications, deploy modern microservices, and build an event mesh to support their hybrid cloud, multi-cloud and IoT architectures.
How would you describe EDA for business leaders to appreciate and understand it?
EDA is actually easier for business to understand because it does not require the leadership team to have IT training.
In the real world, any occurrence is an event and we will react to the event accordingly. These are request/reply in nature.
For example, when it rains, no one tells us to get inside, or find shelter. We respond to that automatically.
But in IT language, traditionally, everything is orchestrated, polled and processed in a batch. The difference with EDA is that it handles events as they happen, mimicking how we respond to real-world events. Event mesh is where events are streaming, and are tagged by event type, or topic. Applications can then consume and process them based on security and governance rules.
APIs are the equivalent of hooks that connect enterprise systems/ software to other platforms. How does the API paradigm mesh with EDA?
APIs can also be event-driven but are traditionally request/reply. That can work in some scenarios, but not all.
APIs can be external facing, for north-south traffic. But for east-west traffic, which is parallel, events are much better and are asynchronous. With events, you can take advantage of deferred execution.
For instance, income tax E-filing is an online service for citizens to file their tax returns. Taxpayers send their yearly/quarterly returns to an API, which is a synchronous call. This synchronous API service will verify the contents of the tax return with some basic checks and validations. Post validation, the API will push the return on the event mesh as an event and respond back to the customer with an e-filing acknowledgement number.
From the customer’s perspective, the transaction is completed as the return is successfully submitted. On the backend, this event triggered by API service will be consumed by many microservices/systems asynchronously for processing the tax return. The same event will also be available for other peripheral systems like BigData, AI/ML etc.
Asynchronous APIs is gaining popularity as a standard, and we support it at Solace.
What’s your EDA solution comprised of? Is it complex that only large organizations go for it?
No, it is not at all big-company stuff. We have three form factors and we start with a PubSub+ standard edition software, which is free. As we move up the chain, we have PubSub+ enterprise edition software and then at the top we have our custom-built FPGA (field-programmable gate array which are semiconductor devices that can be programmed as per requirement) appliances.
With the standard edition, organisations can start using our technology for free (with optional support packages) and move up the chain as their deployments grow. Functionally, all three form factors are the same. Lot of startups start by using the standard edition and will buy support plans for risk and compliance as they grow. Starting for free helps to build brand awareness for our technology and a growing number of customers are using it for development and education purposes.
We have a broad spectrum of customers using our technology for various use cases and the various form factors help us to work with all of them.
What’s the future with EDA in terms of tech evolution and new business impact?
Integration is evolving and the network is faster today. With 5G coming soon, the systems are going to be more and more distributed. As a result, application interaction will have to be more and more event-driven, as the business operates in real-time. Burst handling, stream processing, AI and ML technologies will all require applications to be event-driven.
In addition, IoT will only accelerate the adoption of EDA as the traditional batch or request/reply means will not be able to support the increasing number of Smart Devices.
We are starting to see this shift towards EDA in an increasing number of sectors, such as healthcare. One of our partners is working with a major healthcare instruments provider, who is creating applications that can help to screen for diseases using medical images such as X-ray, MRI, and ultrasound. After building an appliance to integrate and interface with customer systems, it was faced with the challenge of integrating these devices with cloud services. Solace’s event mesh technology was able to provide the healthcare provider with a platform which reliably integrates into the cloud, creating a common data sharing/streaming plane across its platform, all in real-time.