You don’t have to look very far in the technology or popular press these days to see how the app economy is shaping our world. From studies that credit the app economy with creating more than half a million jobs in the past 5 years of an otherwise sluggish economy – to the effects of the app economy on retail and ecommerce, telecommunications, healthcare, transportation, government, just about all areas of our lives – the app economy is without doubt the driving force of the first decade of the 21st century.
As we exited the first decade, Big Data joins the app economy in the limelight. Our connected homes, connected cars, and connected people - all of our apps, on all of our devices - provide an explosion of dynamic and disparate data. The third chapter in the evolving app economy story is the Internet of Things. Likely to be the trend in the popular and tech press in 2013, the Internet of Things is all about connecting our every-day devices and objects to the Internet and automatically sending their data to IT systems for analysis.
Because APIs are the drivers of the app economy, and are also core to changing the landscape for enterprise data integration to get deeper business insights and real-time operational feedback, we at Apigee talk a lot about the app economy.
Above and Below the Waterline
One of the things we also talk about is the structure of the Internet that must support all of this – how the Internet backplane must change to accommodate changing usage models on the top. This is probably stating the obvious, but If you were to plot out the “visible” aspects of evolution of Internet usage over the last 20 years or so, for each phase and for each distinct evolution of usage, you could see distinct changes in the employment of technology to enable the wonders we quickly take for granted.
In a way you can think of this as the Visible Internet (today’s app economy), and the Invisible Internet (the structural and management patterns that make the visible Internet possible).
Implications of the Visible Internet on the Invisible Internet
Let’s take a look at the implications of the app economy on the backplane of the Internet and some of the traits below the water line in the backplane.
The evolution of the technology behind the scenes to support the app economy is no less revolutionary than the revolutionary (or even miraculous) ways in which the Internet has transformed business, commerce, and culture. The Internet infrastructure has had to evolve to provide various preconditions to enable what we expect from the app economy, including:
- dynamic routing
- hosting flexibility
- support for transmission
- storage and retrieval of bigger and more diverse data sets
- speed and ease of application deployment
. . . the list goes on.
To meet these challenges, software developers and vendors have had to raise the bar countless times to deliver software that is as complex as ever, but runs in more challenging contexts than ever before.
The complexity of functionality coupled with the new run-time model means that the software delivered by the enablers of today’s app economy is in many ways the hardest software challenge yet tackled.
This is true of the ever more complicated applications themselves, but also holds for the software development tools used to create those applications, along with modern data and network switching systems - Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms.
While Cisco switches and app servers ran the Internet of ten years ago, the demands on and the requirements of backplane routing and architecture have changed. Device and IP-based routing is replaced by cloud-based routing and today's Internet backplane is doing a lot more processing than earlier generations.
Next time we’ll delve into exactly how the visible Internet has changed over the past couple of decades as a result of increasing systems' complexity, as well as new social chemistry and business models. And then, we'll take a deeper dive below the waterline and see how the structural and management patterns of the invisible Internet are changing to support it all.