NAB to tie down tricky SOA

Summary:The National Australia Bank (NAB) today said it had allocated resources to understanding the potential impact of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) concept on its technology operations. SOA refers to a technology environment where end-user services can be disassociated from their underlying platforms and data is dissociated from the processes acting on it.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) today said it had allocated resources to understanding the potential impact of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) concept on its technology operations.

SOA refers to a technology environment where end-user services can be disassociated from their underlying platforms and data is dissociated from the processes acting on it.

Sound nebulous and confusing? The NAB agrees.

"In terms of what is specifically is, and what the benefits are, it's a very slippery concept," acknowledged Simon Spencer, the bank's Manager, Enterprise Services -- Technology.

Speaking at a Red Hat conference in Sydney this morning, Spencer said the NAB was currently investigating SOA with partners, using its Innovation Labs process which sees interesting tech ideas tested for integration into the bank's production environment.

"It's not that we've got this killer project that's got to be SOA," he said, "although we're dabbling with it in places."

"It's about doing the lab work now, so that as this technology matures and as our understanding of it matures, then by the time we've got to the right point, let's get the business moving to use it."

This approach has worked well for the NAB, which back in 2003 allocated resources to investigate the possibility of building a cheap server farm based on Linux and x86 hardware to replace expensive high-level machines from vendors like Sun Microsystems.

That project has been an outstanding success for the bank, with Spencer saying the NAB now used Red Hat Linux on x86 hardware extensively throughout its operations. The move has generated extensive savings in addition to speeding up some processes.

The bank is also using Oracle's database software in grid configurations, which network small servers together to get a greater combined amount of processing power.

The SOA move is not the first for the bank.

In May last year an Australian technology magazine reported the NAB had started deploying its first production application using an SOA. The software was a financial planning tool for advisers and employees.

But the Innovation Labs concept doesn't appear to be costing the NAB all that much, being run on "the smell of an oily rag" according to Spencer.

Topics: Open Source, Linux, Oracle

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