The Interface (Membrane)
The Interface Layer defines the boundary between the enterprise and the ecosystems it supports, utilises and interacts with. These will include customers, clients, suppliers, partners and agencies. It defines how these external parties communicate with the enterprise, as well as implementation of the logical and physical external communication protocols required for effective, efficient and secure communications into and out of the enterprise. It passes incoming messages received to the Action Layer and sends outgoing messages from the Action Layer.
Having a well defined Interface Layer enables:
- Processes inside the enterprise to mutate without changing external communication.
- New external communication methods to be added that may use existing internal processes.
- The customisation and personalisation of the user experience; by supporting multiple device types, interface types, and assistive technologies.
- The security of the enterprise by validating messages going in and out; and blocking potentially harmful messages crossing the border.
- The scope of the enterprise to grow or contract by redefining what is in and what is out.
The interface layer can be thought of as a membrane that completely surrounds the enterprise and controls the flow of information in to and out of the enterprise. To continue the analogy the whole enterprise is like an amoeba that can react to changes in its environment and transform as required.
The layer can be divided into two, the how and the what:
- The physical implementation of the communication protocols, either private APIs or standard Internet protocols
- The logical definition of the different types of communications including: mobile, social, B2B, B2C, Internet of Things (IoT) and legacy.
Legacy: Legacy is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program that does not use the current generation of computer technology. Examples include “green screen” applications such as CICS, Assembler and COBOL programs.(SH). Legacy applications can still implement useful processes and the legacy “look and feel” can be modernised (if the legacy is well-written). The main issues with Legacy are a lack of agility, and of the people who wrote it; and the cost of the requisite skills/people needed to keep it going. These issues can be addressed with modernisation, if the value of the legacy justifies this. Legacy is only a bad thing if its use is having a negative impact on doing business; otherwise it can be seen as providing a service that has already been paid for. It is worth remembering that what you buy today becomes legacy the minute you implement it. In addition, remember that vendors tend to use the term “legacy” rather more loosely – meaning anything that they would like to replace but not necessarily “old”.
Mobile: Mobile pertains to the use of wireless devices such as smartphones, portable (normally hand-held) computing devices, such as bar-code and RFID readers, tablet computers, and personal digital assistants. Such devices are used “independently of time, place and physical wiring” to communicate remotely with information stored on a central hub (and there is usually a necessity for them to be able to operate for an appropriate time, even if the connection to the hub is lost). Mobile devices share common features, such as touchscreen interfaces with colour displays, links to external software programs (browser-based Apps), and access to wireless platforms. (Wikipedia, Techopedia, dictionary.com)
Social: Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration. Websites and applications dedicated to forums, micro-blogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media. Brian Solis created the following social media chart, known as the conversation prism, to categorise social sites and services into various types of social media. Social media is becoming an integral part of life online as social websites and applications proliferate. Most traditional online media include social components, such as comment fields for users. In business, social media is used to market products, promote brands, connect to current customers and foster new business.
Internet of Things (IoT): The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects, such as devices, health monitors, farm animals, vehicles, buildings and other items, embedded with electronics, software (intelligence), sensors, and network connectivity. These objects or “things” are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to collect and transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction [but, in a sense, “things” are little computers]. The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. (Wikipedia, internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com)
API (Application Program Interface): An API is a programming language construct that enables two applications to communicate or, interface with each other. As such, they are a common boundary that facilitates integration between applications, allowing for the rapid and efficient sharing of information. APIs are used widely in ways that affect the daily lives of most users of web applications. Consumers are keen users of the new breed of social tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn that enable high levels of effective interaction – and all of those services rely on APIs to deliver information and connect users.
APIs are key enablers for the extended enterprise that is a reality today owing to the widespread use of mobile devices and cloud-based technology delivery mechanisms. They allow organisations to share information with users wherever they are, using whatever device or platform they wish. APIs enable organisations to provide customers with real time information about their products and services, making customer outreach a more social, proactive activity that can provide the organisation with competitive advantage. APIs are also the cornerstone for enabling the promise of the ‘Internet of Things’, where all kinds of objects will be connected via internet protocol, from smartphones to cars to household appliances to sensors in all manner of industrial equipment, or smart technology such as meters. (Bloor – FH)
Cloud: Users access cloud computing using networked client devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones and any Ethernet enabled device such as Home Automation Gadgets. Some of these devices (cloud devices) rely on cloud computing for all or a majority of their applications so as to be essentially useless without it. Examples are thin clients and the browser-based Chromebook. Many cloud applications do not require specific software on the client and instead use a web browser to interact with the cloud application. With Ajax and HTML5 are examples of these Web user interfaces. Some cloud applications support specific client software dedicated to these applications (e.g., virtual desktop clients and most email clients). Some line of business legacy applications are delivered via a screen-sharing technology. (Wikipedia, edited by SH)