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How to develop a digital transformation strategy based on Event-Driven Architecture

(Image credit: Shutterstock / aorpixza)

In today’s era of Uber, Amazon Prime, and Asos, the world is more dependent on digital technology than ever before. If customers cannot access services at the click of a button, they will likely take their business elsewhere. This poses a challenge for companies across almost every sector – how can they implement a digital transformation to enable this kind of functionality?

In such a fast-paced world, event-driven architecture (EDA) can serve as a key differentiator between organizations that succeed and those that fail. In fact, by 2022 Gartner has estimated that over 50 percent of businesses will participate in event-driven digital business ecosystems. 

An effective EDA allows businesses of all sectors and sizes to react in real-time to the production, detection, and consumption of events – meaning any significant change in state that is recognized by software. For instance, an order being placed, a product being sold, or even a movement of the mouse. From retail, which relies on the online store being in constant communication with the warehouse and the dispatching team, to aviation, where pilots depend on real-time weather updates in order to carry the passengers to safety, today’s industries cannot afford anything other than real-time data movement.

However, deploying this kind of architecture successfully is no mean feat, especially if you’re attempting to build it from scratch. Therefore, it helps to have a comprehensive roadmap on how to create a portable, flexible, real-time EDA for your business.

An event driven business

As customers move toward buying products and services as experiences, they expect companies to provide real-time updates. Supply chains play a crucial role in creating this value-driven customer experience, as by recognizing that creating value for customers relies on collaboration, data has become the new currency feeding that value both internally and with supply chain partners.

Products are not the only entities that travel through a supply chain; the movement of data which allows this travel is an often overlooked yet critical element. The IT infrastructure at the heart of any given supply chain can either boost or constrain a company’s bottom line and its customers’ experience, by either allowing a fast and effective movement of crucial information or throttling it.

Overall, when data is enabled to move in this way, businesses can make better decisions. In the case of shipping, for example, if we are streaming discrete events such as shipping events, vessel location and order management events, and even external factors such as weather, or economic data while correlating and visualizing them in real-time, key insights are revealed and all parts of the transport chain can function in an accurate, timely manner, increasing efficiency across the entire operation and avoiding shipping delays and the costs business incur because of them.

A roadmap for building event-driven architecture

Culture, awareness, and intent

Before taking any technical steps – it’s important to build cultural awareness around how EDA fits into your digital transformation strategy. It’s vital to educate employees and stakeholders about the benefits of EDA – agility, responsiveness, and better customer experience. Furthermore, it’s crucial to keep the workforce motivated by proving those benefits day after day.

Identify use candidates

What are the main candidates in your enterprise that could benefit from real-time event-driven architecture? Look for projects which need to be transformed for either pain removal (brittleness, performance, new functionality) or projects that will cause a high business impact. Make a shortlist of real-time candidates for your event-driven journey before diving into building it.

Build your foundation

Once these initial steps are out the way, it’s time to think about architecture. An event-driven architecture will depend on decomposing data flows into microservices and creating runtime fabric that lets microservices talk to each other seamlessly. To achieve this, the following components are essential:

  • Event Broker: An event broker is a middleware software, appliance or SaaS used to transmit events between producers and consumers. These need to be high performance with high throughput, flexible enough to address various architectural patterns, and guarantee event delivery. An organization with a successful event broker will be able to support dynamic and intelligent event routing, an event mesh, various open protocols, and APIs.
  • Event Mesh:  An event mesh is a network of event brokers that lets you dynamically route events between applications no matter where they are deployed – on-premises, in the cloud, or even at IoT edge locations. Global capital markets have used this event driven paradigm for years, and as other industries become more real-time, they can take inspiration from global capital markets event driven architectures.
  • Event Portal: An event portal – just like an API portal – is a view into your entire event mesh. An event portal gives architects an easy way to define and design events in a governed manner. Once you have defined events, microservices or applications can also be designed in the event portal and instructed on which events they will consume and produce.
  • Event Taxonomy: Finally, it’s important to pay attention to topic taxonomy - the way in which you classify and name data sets. A solid taxonomy is one of the most important design investments you will make, so it’s best not to take short cuts here. Having a good taxonomy will greatly help with event routing, and helping application developers easily identify naming conventions.

These technologies help communicate changes in data at each step of the process - what is known as events - as they happen, keeping all pieces of the puzzle working together at all times.

Innovation is key

Ultimately, a digital transformation strategy focused on responding to changing business conditions and customer demand is crucial for maintaining growth and profitability. EDA is a key driver of this change. However, assembling the processes and tools for a successful EDA implementation requires careful expertise and a comprehensive toolset. By following the guidelines above, businesses can begin their future-proofing journey armed with the necessary knowledge to succeed.

Tom Fairbairn, Distinguished Engineer and Developer Advocate, Solace (opens in new tab)

Tom Fairbairn, Distinguished Engineer and Developer Advocate, Solace.