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shiny front-end and dirty back-end, legacyRecently one of my colleagues attended a meeting at Mobgen, the digital agency from Accenture and what was striking was that what they are doing their best to define what can best describes as ‘shiny front-end’ implementation of the customer experience. I am talking about all kinds of dialogues, chat bots, deep learning, APIs machine learning, et cetera. They showed some real needs used in cases where beautiful experience is actually being shown. One of the examples that they showed was a an application (Smartify) they developed for the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam where they used a camera on a smart phone to scan the image of a painting and gather additional information on the painting, painter et cetera.

Rembrandt

I am familiar with that setup since it is one of the examples we use in our Yenlo-WSO2 trainings and it consists of calling the Rijksmuseum API with the right credentials and image details (e.g. painting id). This API is offering information about the painter, depicted people and so on in order to be used in augmented reality that will tell the visitor of the of the museum more about a painting. Let's say that you are looking at the ‘Night Watch’ for those of you are familiar this painting. It is perhaps one of the most famous paintings in the world and was painted by Rembrandt. It shows the ‘Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, Known as the ‘Night Watch’.

The shiny front-end

What is cool is that the API has what I call a shiny front end using augmented reality to show that information to people in multiple forms. So, they could even do for instance text-to-speech. But where does the shiny front-end get its data from? The dirty back-end of course!

The dirty back-end

This is a name for all the content management systems, database systems, policy administration systems written in everything we consider ‘legacy’ and almost all other systems in our IT landscape. This of course includes Cobol but also languages and systems that were once considered cool, like PowerBuilder, Pascal, Fortran, Basic, everything that was ever developed in the last 40 years of using information and communication technology.

As you know, shiny front-ends might come and go but the dirty back-end is here to stay. Decades of IT has shown that we add to our IT and software landscape but seldom deprecate anything. Shiny front-ends always use the latest technology, but dirty back-ends stay as they are. With sometimes wobbly interfaces, almost using the sneaker network but surely the digital equivalent: file transfer. When we want shiny front-ends (and we do!) we need a robust middleware layer to make the necessary connections to all these dirty back-ends.

But what do you need as far as this technology layer goes? Our suggestion: look at an scalable Enterprise Integrator that will allow you to make the required connections to the dirty backend so you can shine!

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Picture of Ruben van der Zwan
Published October 23, 2018

Ruben van der Zwan

Ruben is CEO and founder of Yenlo. He is an IT visionary from the first hour, and always working on creating better ICT solutions. Ruben believes that with technology, we can bring the people in this world together and bring prosperity to everyone. Ruben is an evangelist of open source technology, integration platforms, and WSO2 in particular. He is a frequent speaker on international conferences.

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