Accelerator Platform for Entrepreneurs and Enterprises
1.An Introduction to APE² – an Accelerator Platform for Enterprises and Entrepreneurs.
Organisations face numerous challenges when it comes to developing software products and enterprise solutions:
● The cost to develop the software product
● How soon the product can be developed
● Whether the right technology is selected
● Whether the technology is future proof
● Whether the product is scalable and resilient
These are all common concerns for entrepreneurs and businesses.
It is not easy to meet all objectives when it comes to traditional software development, and often, the unknowns above change the direction of the enterprise solution. However, what if there is a way to address the concerns long before the product development starts, and provide developers with a proven technology platform from which to start their development? What if there is a way to ensure that by addressing these concerns, businesses can still reach the goals they set out to reach, without development issues changing the end-game?
There is. With Mitra Innovation’s APE².
APE² has the ability to change the way we build products and enterprise solutions
Mitra Innovation has developed a unique tool set and a framework to manage software projects. It’s called APE² – an Accelerator Platform for Entrepreneurs and Enterprises (figure 1). APE² is an intuitive tool set and a framework for product development, environment setup, configuration and deployment which reduces development effort by 50%-70%, thereby reducing overall project timelines by 10-20%.
As a tool it enforces a standard repeatable automated process, which manages dependencies so that a single engineer can address all the steps in a development process. This eliminates the problem of different approaches being adopted manually by different teams, and the challenges that arise when parallel setup activities are carried out by multiple engineers.
APE² also allows developers to build scalable solutions by simply dragging and dropping APE² components based on their envisioned architecture. In the traditional process, the solution designer/software architect passed the design to developers, who took a complete sprint zero to setup, whilst preparing the environment, and managing the application lifecycle before the project started. APE² now eliminates these repetitive processes with pre-built product or enterprise solution templates. With the click of a button, envisioned architectures can now be built with minimum viable components.
2.The Challenges of Building Products and Enterprise Solutions
The several key challenges which typically exist throughout product conceptualisation to in-life support, and which can hinder the success of a product or an enterprise solution, include:
Complex software products and enterprise solutions are often made simple by applying the right technology mix and engineering best practices. When a solution is designed and passed to a development team for implementation, if not carefully monitored, unexpected delays and unforeseen outcomes are inevitable. The technology blueprint should be embedded throughout the product development lifecycle, in order to ensure the envisioned software architecture is delivered. Concepts such as Concurrent Engineering address these kinds of issues in the software development process. When it comes to serial product development, reusing a technology blueprint that was used for a successful product which is already in production can provide tremendous value. This could reduce Over-the-Wall engineering issues, including possible risks and failures. (See Figure 2.)
When a product is about to be born, the product owner often wants to push as many features from the product backlog, to the very first release of the product or enterprise solution. This often creates an added pressure for the development team where they have to spend significant amounts of time to setup the solution based on the architecture, prepare the environment, manage the application lifecycle, release plan and other key considerations. When the product backlog and release features grow, as the business requirements and market reforms, it is a tremendous challenge for companies to take that very first version of the product out onto a live system. (See figure 3.) It can cause delays and these delays can often cause a product to be a total failure.
Software product development is moving into new directions. Software products are no longer built as single systems that provide all the features required. Many businesses now rely on integrating with third party systems which provide the necessary features, rather than developing the said functionality itself. This is great, however a key challenge with this process is the seamless integration with third parties. If not carefully structured, products will suffer from not having a proper API strategy or integration architecture, when third parties are allowed to connect to the product or enterprise solution. On top of all this, providing an interoperability layer in order to meet high go-to-market demands makes the process even more difficult for the development team.
Deployment, DevOps and In-Life Support
Products fail if the correct deployment architecture is not followed. Bad deployment architecture can hinder the in-life performance and soon the end users would lose interest on using the product. Planning for a robust, scalable, high performing deployment is always a challenge. With many businesses moving towards automated deployment with best practices of DevOps, it is becoming a constant challenge to be ahead in the game.
3. APE² Has the Ability to Change the Way We Build Products and Enterprise Solutions
Product and enterprise solutions development has been Mitra Innovation’s bread and butter for a long time, and we have learned a lot of lessons along the way. For example – and perhaps most importantly – we have understood how important it is to push a product or an enterprise solution to the market as soon as possible with as many features as possible, whilst at the same time saving costs for our customers and ensuring the key architectural pillars of the product are intact. However, this is difficult, and the main reason why we have used our expertise to develop APE².
APE² was born out of our pain points of building products and enterprise solutions. Every time we
implement something new for one of our customers, we go through the rigorous process of repeating the solution architecture, deployment architecture, deployment and configuration, setting up the application lifecycle management etc. There is a vast amount of valuable knowledge captured during this process which we knew could be reused for all future development projects. So we decided to build APE² in order to capture the knowledge and apply it – as a type of ‘technology blueprint’ – to any new solution. This process of applying a technology blueprint into a product or an enterprise solution embeds our knowledge DNA, which then follows the project right the way through to launch and in-life support.
APE² has not only captured Mitra Innovation’s technical knowledge and learning. It has also generated some sophisticated product blueprint characteristics. With just a few clicks in APE², we can deploy a blueprint of a product or an enterprise solution for our customers with the following features:
● To download documents providing its name.
● Robust and scalable reference architecture.
● Design for cloud first or on-premise situations.
● Product or enterprise solution boilerplates.
● Design for mobile first.
● Integration middleware.
● Application lifecycle management.
● Continuous integration.
● API management.
● Identity management.
● Enterprise governance and security.
● Configuration management.
● Big data analytics.
● Auditing, logging and alerting.
Depending on the solution in hand, APE² enables the above capabilities to be embedded into any given product or the enterprise solution. And this is just the start, as APE² is evolving. It has no limit on the number of features and capabilities we can add to it, in order to add value to a product.
4. How APE² Works
1.The process starts with a discussion with a customer where we’ll not only talk about the development process, but the product in its entirety, from conceptualisation, to productisation, to building, to operating, and finally the product’s evolution over time. We use the Mitra Innovation unique framework called AI5 (Accelerated Innovation in Five Easy Steps) as part of this process.
(Figure 4 – AI5 process)
2.The software development requirements for the project are born from the AI5 process, and our solutions architects then use APE² to design and build the solution.
3.APE² has a built-in knowledge repository of reference architectures which are then used as a starting point for the solution design. With the help of these reference architectures, architects may refine the solution and build it using the ‘APE² Workbench’. (See figure 5)
4.The APE² Workbench is a sophisticated Cloud based visualisation tool with panels of draggable solution building components. Architects can build the platform, solution components (boilerplates), integration and identity components. The built solution can be saved as an. ape file, which is portable and can be sent via email to another architect, who can open it up in the APE² Workbench.
5.Once the solution is finalised, it can be built with a simple click on the target platform. If the architect chooses to manage the application lifecycle, APE² would create a source code repository for the solution, push the boilerplate code into it, and setup continues on the integration platform (CI) with the chosen technologies. This is a huge leap forward in product and enterprise solutions development as it saves the developer the trouble of carrying out all these tasks during an agile execution and a sprint zero.
5. APE² In Practice
We recently used APE² to accelerate a product that we are developing for one of our clients who had a specific requirement to connect their Sandbox environment to third party service providers within tight timeframes. Their Sandbox included a fully fledged organisation management platform which managed their fleets, resources and other assets. Their initial requirement was to connect four services – namely Microsoft OneDrive, Capsule CRM, Xero and Salesforce – to the Sandbox environment. With the given time constraints, and the urgency of the requirement, APE² was the ideal tool for use on the job.
By default, APE² comes with several third party connectors that can be easily plugged into WSO2 ESB instances. These use the existing connectors that are available in the WSO2 connector store (Capsule, Xero, Salesforce), as well as custom built connectors crafted by engineers at Mitra Innovation (e.g. the Microsoft OneDrive connector). APE² provides intuitive tools to connect to these services through easy-to-use, comprehensive configuration options.
Each of these connectors has their own authentication mechanisms and parameters.
The following graphic (figure 6) shows how these connectors were configured through APE² on a WSO2 ESB instance.
A WSO2 API Manager instance manages all connectivity to the underlying WSO2 instance, and WSO2 API Manager provides several security and access management features, throttling and subscription options, and provides comprehensive analytics and monitoring tools on usage of the exposed APIs.
APE² provides a simple interface for adding sample/required APIs in the form of Swagger representation.
APE² also provides simple yet powerful API publishing, subscription and consumption capabilities for WSO2 API Manager. All architectural components and build artifacts are stored for future reference and monitoring in a file with ”.apee” extension.
We also used the same components/configuration later (using the .APEE file) to implement a similar scenario which involves APE² scaffoldings for front-ends and back-ends. The following graphic (figure 8) is a snapshot of the APE² workbench for this particular scenario.
6. The Future of APE2
APE² is a great advancement in the world of software development. It provides Mitra Innovation with a competitive advantage when it comes to delivering solutions quickly for entrepreneurs and enterprises, whilst ensuring a top quality delivered solution. Some of our customers have already seen the benefits in terms of speed of delivery, and cost savings. Many are also stating that this is the way forward.
APE² is an exciting product for all. Plus it is only going to get better as Mitra Innovation has a promising roadmap that aims to address far more complex solution scenarios, by constantly adding capabilities, solution components (boilerplates) and integration components to the APE² platform.