Industrial-strength SOA put to work in railroads, insurance, military, healthcare

Ten examples of SOA in the industry trenches.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Service oriented principles have been put to work in a range of industries, from transportation to healthcare to insurance. Every industry -- and every company for that matter -- has its own story to tell. I collect such stories over at my "SOA in Action" site over at ebizQ/TechTarget.

Here are some vertical stories, culled from the "SOA in Action" site, that were published during 2010:

SOA Powers the Railroad Renaissance. Railroads are intensive operations, requiring the heavy-duty scheduling of loads and trains to maximize efficiency and cut fuel costs. That's why Union Pacific Railroad, which has routes all across the Southwest, knew it needed to update and upgrade its legacy systems to prepare for the new golden age of railroading. The transportation giant evolved its 40-year-old mainframe system to one that meets the requirements of an alert-driven, workflow-based world -- using service oriented architecture methodologies.

 Service Reuse Drives SOA at Insurers such as Cigna and AFLAC. Cigna applied SOA to enterprise-wide systems such as call centers and customer relationship management software. Services and data are shared and reused between business units. At AFLAC, SOA-based services are enabling the company to get to market quicker with new offerings, such as the company's Web-based self-service system.

US Defense Department Goes 'Primitive;' Fortifies SOAs. Dennis Wisnosky, the business mission area chief technical officer and chief architect at the Office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer at the US Department of Defense, has been working tirelessly at bringing a common set of standards and protocols to the DoD's procurement and administrative systems, as well as service-oriented principles, and his work is worth emulating across the private sector.

InterContinental Hotels' SOA-based Initiatives Earn 'Wow' Rating. The deployment of cloud-based customer service contact centers, based on SOA standards, enables a leading hotel chain to maintain consistency and scale.

SOA Fuels the Digital Self-Care Revolution. In recent years, there has been a strong movement to people taking their healthcare into their own hands -- making informed decisions to meet their own requirements versus relying solely on physicians, and making proactive lifestyle choices to prevent or reduce the severity of disease. With the advent of technology, this self-care revolution is taking on an added dimension -- and service-oriented architecture practices helping to pave the way. One city in Finland is showing the way.

SOA Will Help Companies Transition to California's Proposed 'ePedigree' Law. There's a lot of pressure on pharmaceutical manufacturers to be able to track and authenticate the movement of drug products through the supply chain. In California, it's likely that this will become law by 2015. The proposed "ePedigree" law "requires manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to track, trace, and authenticate the entire chain of drug custody. It also requires manufacturers to track their products at the serialized salable-unit level -- a significant change in an industry that has never tracked beyond the lot level." What's the best way for this industry to address these new requirements? Service oriented architecture.

Healthcare's Ailing IT: SOA to the Rescue. The need for more agile and responsive IT in the healthcare sector has not been lost on vendors with SOA offerings. As Rob Barry notes in TechTarget, companies have started positioning offerings designed to improve hospital systems and patient care, with a service-oriented twist. Axolotl announced its SOA platform for the healthcare industry, dubbed Elysium Open Access, which "connects users into the Health Information Exchange (HIE) via exposed Web services." Oracle, for its part, announced an enterprise healthcare analytics product for data integration and warehousing.


HealthNow Sees Data Now, Thanks to SOA. HealthNow New York, one of the Northeast US's leading health insurance and employee benefits companies, deployed a data-services oriented architecture that has shortened the time-to-delivery of business critical data from months to days for Business Intelligence (BI) and other applications to perform pricing and risk analysis.

SOA Drives Large Government Outsourcing Deal. SOA is still behind some of the old-model outsourcing megadeals. For example, CSC just announced that it was awarded a contract by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Clinical Standards and Quality to migrate key its information technology (IT) systems to a new service-oriented architecture.

Shared Services in Action at Nationwide. At Nationwide Insurance, the drive for greater streamlining of multiple business silos was fueled in 2006, following a spate of claims arising from a stormy year among many policyholders. The insurance company's management recognized a need to streamline and optimize its data reporting. This need evolved into an enterprise-wide shared services strategy, in which Nationwide's IT team was able to build out a shared services infrastructure across the enterprise, and enable five different business lines to tap into common data services supported by a data warehouse.

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