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Optimizing interconnection for hybrid apps is the key to greater customer experience

Wed 24 May 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The future of application design is not dependent solely on serverless, containers, microservices, bots or some completely new technology.

It’s the integration of these new capabilities with your company’s existing assets, applications and cloud services. But this amalgam of critical company resources and supporting technologies won’t add much value if the interconnection among them degrades the customer experience.

Sadly, this is the reality for many companies today. They are pushing new capabilities to the edge, but still using old-school integration practices to bring it all together.

Here are two common connectivity approaches that don’t work:

Trust the internet 

“It’s everywhere, it’s open and it’s fast.” If only this were true. With internet traffic growing exponentially, it’s risky to trust that your connection will have low latency. And we all know how “open” aligns with being “secure.” (It doesn’t.)

Bring it all home 

If you can’t trust the internet, maybe the answer is to use secure, private connections, such as MPLS lines, to connect these services back to the assets in the corporate data center?

This would work if every hybrid connection you wanted to setup was from the edge to corporate headquarters, but that era died long ago. Just ask your sales teams how much they love connecting to com via your corporate virtual private network. (They don’t.)

So, what’s the better answer?

Try optimizing the workflows of your hybrid interconnections. This harkens back to best practices from the early 2000s, when the world first moved to the web.

Back then, a business didn’t just create a web site, host it in Rackspace’s San Antonio data center and expect every customer with internet access to have a good experience.

Companies learned they needed to optimize content colocation with their most important customers. At that time, content delivery networks were the answer to ensuring a high customer quality of experience (QoE) because they cached content closer to those users who were frequently accessing it.

But today, you can’t simply cache content to ensure a good customer experience at the digital edge. The digital edge is where commerce, population centers and digital ecosystems meet.

And the digital edge isn’t just people looking at web pages and mobile apps. Increasingly, it’s smart devices that consume and generate content that needs to be acted on in near real time.

This means the digital edge isn’t just a destination, but a point of interconnection and engagement that is just as important and active as the data center itself. And yet, it’s not just an isolated point of interaction, but the edge of a hybrid workflow. This means you need to optimize connectivity according to the type of workflow moving to and from the digital edge.

'This requires taking the optimization practices of the past and updating them to solve for today’s hybrid apps. As Forrester notes in its customer experience research, those who get the customer QoE right, win in the market.

To architect for the digital edge, consider these steps:

Map out your digital edge 

Where do you have offices where employees and smart devices need a high customer QoE to support new interactions? Where are the customers for whom you are building out new capabilities? Where will innovative digital services help win new business?

Graph the architectures of your hybrid apps

Your new chatbot isn’t just the Facebook Messenger app your development team just built. It’s the connections between the bot and the SaaS apps it uses to aggregate past customer interactions, firmographic and social behaviors. It’s also the eCommerce system that’s servicing customers ready to buy through the bot.

Minimize distance in each connection 

If a customer in Singapore taps into your AWS-based bot, which Amazon data center deployed your request? When the bot calls the Microsoft Dynamics CRM app to learn about the customer, is that connection crossing a continent? When the customer uses Apple Pay to sign up for your latest service, is that transaction flowing back to Silicon Valley?

Ensure your code is optimized for customer experience 

Optimizing the pathways above still might not deliver a good customer experience if the app itself is sending thousands of small packets through back and forth connections just to resolve a single request. This is where application performance management tools come in.

Secure these connections 

Now that you have mapped out the workflows, you can apply the right level of security where it is needed most. Don’t just add a layer of security to the whole architecture.

That can add latency where it isn’t needed or force a customer to go through validation steps before they are necessary. Instead, you want an optimized security architecture.

Shifting to best practices and working with companies like Equinix can give you more locations and more ecosystem interconnections at the digital edge than your competitors.

Your IT organization can become key to optimizing the customer experience. Every business is now undergoing a digital transformation, but too many are doing this by focusing on the use of shadow IT and cloud services that bypass traditional IT.

As a result, the CIO and his team have been losing relevance with the C-suite. A strategy built for the digital edge can help get it back.

Article by James Staten, Equinix Blog Network

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