Cloud builds on SOA: 'there are very few new ideas in the world'

At State Street Corporation, cloud computing didn't pop out of a vacuum; its genesis was in service oriented architecture.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

For the past two years, State Street Corporation has been overhauling and streamlining its business, building its technology capability on a set of enterprise shared services and shared platforms. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Chris Perretta, CIO of State Street Corporation, about these changes, which are being presented to the world as a cloud model -- but actually run much deeper than that.  (My Q&A with Perretta on State Street's overall cloud strategy is posted at Forbes.) 

State Street's private cloud, which now delivers close to 50 applications with another 100 on the way, didn't just pop out of nowhere, Perretta points out. "This is more of an SOA initiative," he explains, adding that when selling the concept to the business, "people don’t want to hear that, they want to hear the word 'cloud' in there. But there are very few new ideas in the world."

A shared, service-oriented infrastructure will go a long way in today's demanding economic environment, Perretta says. "Every CFO in the world would tell the IT guy that he spends too much money," he explains. "But everybody else in the organization is telling him to go faster. And how do you go faster? You either reduce the number of projects you do, or focus on the important ones."

The third way is to share computing assets and people. "Sharing assets is hard, but SOA is the way forward," he says. "It's a lot easier to leverage people if your applications are built on the same services infrastructure."

The goal of State Street's SOA/cloud effort, Parretta says, is about the data, and being able to deploy information-rich products to the bank's customers. A secondary goal is to have a shared enterprise infrastructure that provides developers and end-users from all departments with a single, standardized platform -- "a digital ecosystem that represents a single source of information for the company." 

"We want to be able to say. 'okay, here's a service, here’s a piece of data, and I need to see in process.' And I want to be able to search across the whole enterprise without having to worry about physically where it is, or what system created it. So by building out the architecture, they’re all discoverable, and I can get to the data with a HTTPS message."

SOA and cloud, he explains, "forces us to take a lot of variation out of our environments that our customers don’t care about. They don’t care how we run. They care about our ability to put out the price of mutual funds, to be able to give them their cash positions."

One of the largest workloads borne by the company is a set of services and interfaces that trace trades across their entire lifecycles, along with their various touchpoints across 40 to 50 systems. "We want to understand the status of a trade at a single place, and to know what is really an exception and what is an accounting break, so our people can focus on true problems" Parretta says. "It may sound kind of boring, but it's a big process to work to make sure each one of of the 40-50 systems that touches a trade in its lifecycle has the latest view of it, and enable the business understand its status, and what's really a true exception and what's just a timing issue. It takes a big computing load to handle that kind of stuff."

None of this is boring at all, for that matter -- it's cutting-edge deployment of services that finally smooth over longstanding business problems. "It's a cool time to be in IT," says Parretta.

(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)


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