That’s because most of the existing large, enterprise level software providers spend massive amounts on their own technology development from a product, architecture and innovation perspective. For a multi-billion dollar software company, constant innovation is a pre-requisite, not a luxury.
As an example, Fab Brasca, vice president of solution strategy at JDA Software, told American Shipper at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals annual conference in Orlando this week that JDA has been focusing on so-called “microservice” architecture. That essentially means building capability to incorporate new technology innovations without disrupting the existing structure of a system.
On a basic level, microservices work like a hub-and-spoke system, with the existing architecture at the hub and new algorithmic-based modules as nodes with which the hub connects, generally via application programming interface (API). The key here is that those nodes could be systems provided by an outside company, or they could be systems developed by the company that operates the hub.
In that way, the operator of the hub can innovate more nimbly without affecting the hub upon which its existing customers depend. It’s the way that many of the most recognizable names in technology have structured their systems.
So in JDA’s terms, the idea is that if the company develops an algorithm that optimizes a function not currently included in its flagship transportation management system (TMS), the TMS could call into that algorithm as it would into a third-party software provider. The key is that the connection between the hub and node involve relatively simple protocols and produce quick return on investment.
The theory behind microservices is that they're easier to build, maintain and scale, and solve problems in an incremental and localized way.
This concept, Brasca said, is growing as JDA both looks to incorporate partner technology into its platform and to integrate internal innovations, such as those developed by its JDA Labs skunk works team.
On the first front, JDA said at its user conference earlier this year that it has added two key visibility partners - TransVoyant and Four Kites.
The development of microservices can also be seen as the next evolution of JDA’s decision in mid-2015 to partner with Google on public cloud services, as software users continue to gravitate to cloud deployed technologies over on-premise.
Brasca has consistently emphasized that one of JDA’s core strengths is its optimization robustness, something users have also validated to American Shipper. The ability to develop an integrated innovation layer is a key way JDA and other established supply chain software providers can keep pace with the agility and uniqueness of startups, while not disturbing those hard-earned long-term and lucrative customer engagements.