Controlling one's own fate, through SOA

Company moves functionality to service-oriented middleware stack.

Can SOA help companies extend end-of-life back-end applications? It sure can.

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to chat with Susan Rzyczycki, director of application development for Kichler Lighting, which sells decorative lamps and lighting fixtures to showrooms and bigbox hardware outlets. The interview appeared as part of an article published in the latest issue of Database Trends & Applications, and I'll share some of it here.

Kichler has a highly customized--but outdated--version of PeopleSoft running its back-end functions and extending data to dealer and customer portals. The company plans to upgrade to a newer version of PeopleSoft later this year, but, in the meantime, it's not concerned whether parts of the system are outdated. That's because much needed functionality for supporting sales channels has been moved out into a Java- based, service-oriented middleware stack.

Using an integration broker underpinned by BEA Systems' WebLogic, the life of the PeopleSoft system was extended considerably, Rzyczycki said. The company had only recently worked out all the issues which resulted from their PeopleSoft upgrade in 2001 and wasn't ready to jump into the process again. "Had we chosen to get an enterprise package with the Web front end that came with the later versions, we would have been forced to upgrade the software," Rzyczycki said. "Instead, we controlled our own fate."

SOA is recasting the relationship between software vendors and customers. Ten years ago, no one would have even considered the notion of moving functionality off an ERP package to industry- standard components and interfaces.

"We won’t be dictated to by the enterprise systems, and big enterprise vendors, that say you have to go to this because they will no longer support it," Rzyczycki told me. "Well, we’ve been without support for almost two years on PeopleSoft 7.52, because they no longer support the product. We said, 'well, we know how to run databases, we know how to write integration brokers, we know how to write Java, thank you.'"

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