Gartner believes that the IT industry is at the beginning of the end of the era of applications, according to Gartner VP and research fellow Andy Kyte

Kyte made the statement during the opening keynote address of the Gartner Applications Summit in Sydney.

“Applications are, generally, bad news,” Sykes told the audience. “The future of software is very much a future where we have platforms and products, for the sake of massive over-simplification.”

“But for what we’re talking about here is a platform world, which is heterogeneous and [features] hybrid services,” he added. “Heterogeneous and hybrid simply means that the services could be in the cloud or on premise. They could be packaged software or custom software – it’s not one vendor or one software stack – these are services. And these services are platform services.”

Kyte said business operations such as customer, purchase order and general ledger are, in fact, services. “These services are blind services. They have no user interface. They have Application Programming Interfaces,” he emphasised.

“We are entering the era of the API economy,” he said. “We will be trading APIs. We will be paid to consume APIs. We will be being monetised for access to our own APIs,” he said, adding that “all of this has to be pulled together by the single, core, most important capability of the IT organisation from today onwards – and that is managing integration well.”

Kyte said the application strategy challenge was not just about dealing with new business demand, adding “it’s dealing with that new business demand in the context of [certain] bottom-up transformations that are needed.

“The challenge as well is that we generally don’t know what we’ve got,” he said. “You know, the software that we’re running is under enormous pressure. We have the four horsemen of the application apocalypse – the things that are rotting your existing portfolio from the inside.”

“We have the behaviour of vendors. Vendors are – and they’re all doing the right thing by their shareholders and that’s what they have to focus on – that’s what they’re in business for, but vendors will decide: We’re withdrawing support from a particular product. We don’t want to be in that market any more. We’re going to force you to upgrade,” continued Kyte.

“A vendor can do some strange things. A vendor might say, ‘There’s a product that you licenced from us with a perpetual licence, but we’ve decided to release an entirely new product which is completely different from the product that you’ve got but is in the same space. We’re going to withdraw support from the product that you’ve currently got where you have perpetual licences. We’re going to force you to buy new perpetual licences for the new product and then there is going to be no upgrade path from the legacy product to the new product, so you’re going to have to do a greenfield implementation of this unproven software, and you’ve got until the end of 2025 to do this.”

Kyte said this meant that vendors cause organisations to lose capacity and integrity in our application portfolios “But then we get the loss of skills,” he said. “You know, we have a great many very cost-effective solutions, which are generally not very respected within the IT or business community. We tend to use the term legacy – ugh!”

He argued that instead legacy systems should be treasured. “What we really should be saying is, ‘Legacy! It’s fantastic. We spent a lot of money on this a long time ago and they’re still delivering value. These are fantastic systems! These are wonderful systems!”

‘The problem is that the only people who know how to make them work and make them change are approaching retirement, and we don’t know how we’re going to manage these systems,” he said. “The loss of skills is losing the integrity in your application portfolio.”

“Then we’ve got, of course, the enormous weight of technical debt that’s been allowed to accumulate in the existing application portfolio. And that technical debt is holding us back at a time when we’re trying to sail with the wind and fly, and deal with all of this demand for digital business and innovation and change.

Finally, Kyte said this particular phenomenon was due to software entropy. “You know, software rusts. What can I tell you? It rusts. It gets old and cranky and inefficient.’

“And we’re not dealing with this very effectively,” said Kyte.