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Ten more ways SOA made a difference in 2007

From planes to trains to phones to hotels, SOA played a key role in advancing many businesses in 2007.

From planes to trains to phones to hotels, SOA played a key role in advancing many businesses in 2007. I culled several more working examples of where SOA made a difference over the past year from my SOA in Action Website over at ebizQ, which tracks SOA success stories. More 2007 SOA success stories are posted here.

To keep planes flying. United Airlines employed SOA techniques to take the next step with its previously service-enabled mainframes to move to an even more open-standards-based middleware architecture. Over the years, United had built an extensive J2EE-based middleware layer to integrate its large assortment of IBM and Unisys mainframes. The main thrust of the new effort was development of an SOA-enabled system called EasyFIDS, which is a flight information system to track the current status of flights. EasyFIDs is able to relay information about flight status, in real time, to multiple endpoints, including airport monitors, crews at different airports, the Federal Aviation Administration, and most importantly, passengers themselves, who may or may not already have checked in. This calls for a system capable of communicating with a variety of endpoints.

To keep more planes flying. As was the case with United, Scandinavian Airlines International (SAS) embarked on a year-long project to move its operations from home-grown mainframe applications to three new distributed systems that provide real-time messaging. The airline is employing SOA via an enterprise service bus (ESB) messaging backbone that will serve as an intermediate layer of middleware that lets the company map data from disparate systems, route messages, ensure that services are delivered in the correct order and enforce security rules. It is estimated that the migration project will lower IT maintenance costs by $250,000 per month after it goes live -- a potential savings of $3 million a year.

To keeps the trains running. A railroad company set out to build an SOA that could handle 5.8 millions messages a day for 1,500 trading partners, as well as track more than seven million pieces of equipment. Railinc, a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Association of Railroads, chose to move to SOA to ensure that the right information is sent out to its 1,500 customers. The company moved from its existing legacy EDI system to an SOA-based system. Information can now be accessed anywhere via a PC with a Web browser.

To keep the lines of telecommunications open. BT, the UK-based telecom giant, began its SOA in earnest about three years ago. As a result of the SOA, the company has been able to close down close to 800 systems, and plans to close down another 700 to 900 systems over the coming 12 months. BT's SOA proponents have been able to evolve the company's focus from maintaining operations to concentrating on the customer experience. BT intends to be fully SOA enabled by 2009, Glass said. BT's SOA deployment now covers up to 3,500 core systems, built on 14 platforms. When fully complete by 2009, the transition will make it much easier for BT to build and introduce new products and services for customers by reusing common components – say, customer identification and revenue collection – allowing BT to focus development resources just on new functionality.

To keep hotel services running. Marriott is employing services-based applications that can be assembled quickly to respond to changes in the hotel market. The SOA is also intended to provide easier paths to integration with partners, such as Web sites that provide online hotel bookings. The reuse of services would save development costs and get new value out of existing systems.

To keep more hotel services running. Seaport Hotel implemented SOA as part of its new strategy to advance a unified communications platform that enhances the customer experience. Seaport Hotel's in-room "Seaportal" application is built using SOA principles to attain a true IP convergence features. The hotel pulled together VoIP, unified communications, SOA, Web services and external information sources — all with a touch-screen interface for the hotel's guests.

To consolidate legacy systems. Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) employed a shared-services CRM system to replaced a tangle of point-to-point connections with a single integration point. The SOA even has a name -- the "Pinwheel." FCSAmerica's Pinwheel brought together customer data coming out of managed in silos such as a mainframe-based loan accounting system, a third-party CRM system, a custom loan origination system written in Visual Basic, and a Web-based system dealer origination system written in Java.

To alleviate double data-entry. Semiconductor testing manufacturer FormFactor Inc. turned to SOA to move away from its outmoded processes that required hand typing information from a legacy manufacturing execution system and then copying the data into its ERP system. The company didn't just decide to drop an SOA into the middle of this configuration. Rather, the company's IT director took a hard look at its business process management before seeing where SOA would fit. SOA would become the enabler for business process automation.

To alleviate manual data entry. Southern States, an agricultural coop, put SOA best practices in place to provide automated updating of price lists across the cooperative's 1,200 retail stores. Previously, pricing data was stored in Oracle’s OneWorld ERP application, a homegrown point-of-sale application and an online catalog and had to be manually updated by store employees. It is estimated that the ability to uniformly update prices has recouped about $1.4 million a year in lost revenues.

To unchain stovepiped systems. Albert Heijn (AH), a big retailer based in the Netherlands, lacked visibility into its supply chain, and was forced to rely on fixed replenishment schedules that were based on local demand forecasts. The company turned to a SOA-based approach to bridge its previously separated technology environments. Now, each of the chain's 720 stores connects to a central broker at AH's headquarters, which in turn connects to back-office applications. AH can now bridge previously separated application-to-application and B2B environments within a single infrastructure that also controls the supply chain. Information on each retail sale streams all the way back to suppliers. All point-of-sale data is automatically aggregated with sales data from across all stores and delivered to a centralized replenishment application. Decision makers now get replenished data every half hour to help with supply chain decisions.