IT trends - Digital transformation initiatives IT architecture that supports evolution

Architecture for realizing digitalization and changes in business

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s widely known DX (Digital Transformation) report

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s “DX Report: Overcoming of ‘2025 Digital Cliff’ Involving IT Systems and Full-fledged Development of Efforts for DX *1, which they announced in 2018, has attracted widespread attention.
This report warns that “in the case that existing systems that have become complex, out-of-date or ‘blackboxed’ remain in operation, the economic losses from the heightened risks inferred by the retirement of IT staff and the end of support for such systems, which are predicted up to the year 2025, may climb to a maximum of 12 trillion yen annually from 2025 onwards (about 3 times the present condition)” (cited from Chapter 2.6.2 of the DX Report).
This report from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry comes during a sense of crisis in Japan that the country won’t be able to make use of IT to the same extent as China and the US, where IT is seeing rapid growth, and this may cause Japan’s global status to decline.
The problem of companies’ IT systems becoming complex and out-of-date (referred to below as the “legacy IT problem”) is a problem of those companies, however the Ministry is advocating through seminars and other methods that they will carry out various policies in order to help drive the DX work of companies.

IT necessary for realizing DX

What type of IT architecture is needed to solve the legacy IT problem and realize DX?
We consider IT from the perspective of “continuous evolution”.
In order for DX that heightens industry competitiveness using the latest digital technologies to cause market disruption (digital disruption) through a new business model, it needs to actualize overwhelming competitiveness to fight off rival companies. This can be thought of as “offensive IT” that makes a company grow. This type of innovative IT is unable to be realized overnight by any company.
We think that only a company that can continually overcome the competition of rivals, probe changes in the market, and evolve at a speed that leaves other companies in their wake will be able to come out as the winner in a new market.
On the other hand, the IT of companies up until now can be thought of as “defensive IT” that supports a company. The main purpose of defensive IT is to raise the efficiency of work and reduce costs.
On top of this, it’s become necessary to continuously follow the changes of the business environment that surrounds a company, the changes in the company’s organization, and the changes in the legal and tax systems.

offensive IT・defensive IT ⇒ Continuous evolution

IT architecture that will continuously evolve

In terms of new IT trends in recent years, new technologies and techniques have been on the rise, including new infrastructure technologies as represented by cloud technologies, agile development*2,microservices*3、DevOps*4、CI/CD(Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery)*5
These technologies have influenced each other through the help of open source organizations and cloud vendors and have come about through what can be called a modern IT architecture.
It’s thought that these trends have led to a large paradigm shift in system development.

Modern IT architecture

In previous systems, the hardware, OS, middleware and applications linked together in a close and complex way, therefore these all needed to be designed and built correctly and simultaneously. Being designed like a monolith, this type of system was said to be “monolithic”.
In contrast, modern IT architecture has applications divided into units called microservices and maintained in blocks, allowing for part-by-part improvements and expansion.
Due to this, the system as a whole has become more scalable and flexible and it can be continuously improved on while it continues to operate.

Legacy IT to Modern IT

In the monolithic systems of the past, applications such as programs and common libraries were closely linked with hardware and middleware in order to run. Due to this, even simple partial improvements to a program would require examining the effect it would have on the middleware and hardware, and sometimes even rebuilding was required. In addition, as highly-advanced skills were needed for this, problems arose due to the difficulty of securing development staff and automating the architecture.

Monolithic applications

Next, we’ll look at the architecture of modern systems that use microservices.
Applications made up of microservices are designed so that functions that can run on their own are divided up and their operating environment is completely separated off from other applications by containers*6, and the different applications are called through an API ( Application Programming Interface )*7over a network in a loosely-coupled manner.It’s designed so that controlling the processing of this calling can allow for the switching of applications while the system is in operation and easier load-distribution by starting multiple applications.
Also, the container platform has a structure that doesn’t rely on the applications and that has a lineup of highly independent execution environments. This also assists in realizing a flexible system.

Microservice Application

Toshiba’s IT modernization technology

So how should this technology be incorporated?
The new technology that has been explained about above really shows off its advantage when the systems involved are improved on a regular basis. Therefore, it’s best to first sort the IT resources you have by how much the system has improved or changed. Then we recommend a “gradual modernization” method where you gradually transfer to a modern architecture starting from the systems that are improved frequently.
We systemize these technologies that are necessary for a modern system as CommonStyle®and use them in internal system development and building.

We will continue to support our customers’ move into DX through examining, researching, and applying to real systems the latest system architectures, including microservices and containers.

Gradual IT modernization scenario
  • *1.The “DX Report: Overcoming of ‘2025 Digital Cliff’ Involving IT Systems and Full-fledged Development of Efforts for DX” by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. of Economy, Trade and Industry)
  • *2.Agile development: A development methodology for developing highly competitive software in a short timeframe through repeated short practices.
  • *3.Microservice: A simple application designed with service as priority that implements lightweight interfaces and that is autonomous and operates cooperatively.
  • *4.DevOps: A method of rapid software building, testing and delivery whereby staff from both development and operations link and work together.
  • *5.CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery): Process automation techniques for realizing continuous integration and continuous delivery.
  • *6.Container: A technology for grouping together the OS calls and libraries necessary for running an application into a virtual image to increase an application’s portability and environment independency.
  • *7.API (Application Programming Interface): An interface between applications that calls over a network using the HTTP protocol.
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