eComp Retail Panel Dinner: Microservices

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On 1st June we held our first Technology Panel Event in central London.  The purpose of the event was to network and discuss a specific burning topic within retail architecture with the intention of educating but also to spot future trends and future opportunity.  We gathered a number of top UK retailers, technology specialists and industry experts together for a wonderful meal and conversation around Microservices.  Our speakers were our own Paul Tough accompanied by our guest speaker Charlie Wilkinson, Head of Architecture at River Island who was kind enough to share with us the transformation being undertaken by his team and the journey they are on to develop a truly next-generation Microservices retail architecture.

From the presentations it was clear that Microservices has something very special to bring to Retail Architecture but this is still very new with new design patterns needing to be forged to make things work effectively.  Our view is that it is AWS that has allowed the theory of Microservices to be put into practice and that today the cost of adoption makes this only possible for the super smart & nimble start-up (with little to no technical baggage) or the very ambitious deeper pocketed giants.  The learnings that River Island are generating will be really interesting and we’d love to see how this evolves over the next 12 months.  We are in no doubt that true Microservices and by that we mean a service architecture that offers “infinite”, burstable scalability; no longer provisioned from what we consider to be the traditional “server”; and a service that costs nothing when unused will be the norm for certain applications in the future.  The evolution will be via a more traditional SOA and API driven approach and what will become interesting is waiting to see the change in commercial model which needs to developed in a world where CPU or server based licensing no longer holds.

The topic of conversation moved onto what this means for the traditional big platform vendors and we theorised how certain applications will remain in place whereas others will need to evolve.  The plethora of new market leading point-solutions is growing rapidly and are beginning to challenge the “stack” giants.  The innovation in the industry is arguably being provided by these new entrants with the larger stack platforms being less agile due to their sheer weight.  The large platforms have served us well and will continue to do so for a number of years but the opportunity for retailers and for new entrants is to adopt a Microservices architecture which allows for rapid integration and low cost development of meaningful proof of concepts in what will undoubtedly become a fail-fast, win-big market.

If you would like to hear more about Microservices or if you are a retailer based in the UK who would like to participate at our next event in September then please let us know.

Paul Tough: paul@ecomp.co.uk