Beeline/IQNavigator Customer Conference: Beyond SOA with Microservices

VMS Sergey Nivens/Adobe Stock

Sometimes the underlying technical and integration approaches to building applications are important to understand even for business users who never get into code. But unfortunately, the pace of change these days in the development world is outpacing even analysts (like us) that cover business applications. From historic approaches like BPM frameworks to modern low code environments, options abound to speed development enhancements, interoperability and integration.

One of these approaches that Beeline and IQNavigator shared at their customer conference today is based on microservices frameworks. The microservices development and integration strategy the combined firms are pursuing came from IQNavigator (before the merger) but is already showing up in new features and capabilities in both VMS solutions.

Earlier this year, Spend Matters published a paper, “The Impact of Disruptive Technologies & Solutions on Strategic Procurement Technologies,” in which we introduced the concept of microservices and explored how we capture these technologies under the “cloud” umbrella of disruptive technologies. This class of technologies includes a range of capabilities:

“... That are by definition consumed – efficiently and flexibly – as an online “service” (versus as a purchased or licensed asset). The cloud paradigm shifts the emphasis of computing from transactioyn processing to connectivity and interaction. Conceptually, cloud is unified in a reference model or stack, typically broken down into basic layers: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS). Cloud-based software or solutions (developed on PaaS) usually leverage Service-Oriented Architectures (SOA) for intra- and inter-system integration. Application Programming Interfaces are inherent in cloud solutions (another stack layer for integration/ connectivity [iPaaS] is now emerging as well), and service-oriented architecture is being superseded by the more flexible and powerful ‘microservices’ architecture”.

What is a Microservice?

Applications (or features) developed in microservices architectures are meant to be flexible and spun up quickly — and then integrated more broadly into collections of microservices, broader modules or platforms. Wikipedia further defines microservices “as a variant of the service-oriented architecture (SOA) architectural style that structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled services. In a microservices architecture, services should be fine-grained and the protocols should be lightweight.”

The best way to think about them — which Beeline/IQN’s head architect explained to me patiently on a napkin sketch — is that a microservice is really a self-contained stack including the capability within which it delivers a feature either directly to a user or via other applications or interfaces. A microservice is self-contained, including its own database (e.g., Oracle), operating system (e.g., Linux) and other layers.

Microservices: Not (Yet) A Replacement for Underlying Modules

Microservices are not (yet) and may never be a replacement for much of the continued development in core application areas for Beeline and IQNavigator (e.g., services procurement, self sourcing, etc.). But they are an ideal way to expose new capabilities to both platforms (or even third-party solutions, in theory) at the same time when it comes to incremental improvements or new services/layers that sit on top of modules or components themselves.

Currently, Beeline and IQNavigator are working on multiple microservices that are being deployed in both applications (both development teams continue to work on developing each core VMS, as well). We’ll cover specific examples of microservices features/capabilities within a VMS context in more detail (and Beeline and IQN specifically) in a forthcoming PRO analysis exploring the combined firm’s first 100 days together.

Stay tuned for further live coverage from Beeline and IQNavigator’s Customer Conference.

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