IBM and its customers took to the stage during the opening keynote of the Impact 2009 user conference in Las Vegas this week to outline the real-world benefits of using service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology.
Russell Irwin, group technology strategy and assurance manager at Standard Life, told the 5,000-plus delegates that SOA had saved the insurance and pensions provider £26m so far by allowing the consistent use and reuse of business functions.
Standard Life had 227 services in production, and 569 in the catalogue, at the end of March this year. Irwin said that service reuse stood at around 50 per cent, and that the system handled 1.25 million service calls a day from a team of 300 developers.
"We have taken SOA off the whiteboard, out of the lab, past the hype phase and into the value stage," said Irwin.
Irwin also had some best practice guidance for IT chiefs interested in rolling out SOA across their organisations. Key to this was getting buy-in from above.
"You need to ensure you have executive support," he said. "Focusing on risk and cash will help appeal to these executives. Show the commercial advantage and risk controls."
Measurement and governance were also cited as important factors. "Measure your services, reuse and performance, and adapt a robust governance model," Irwin said. "Get the roles and responsibilities clear, and apply strong SOA leadership across the entire technology pattern."
Finally Irwin advised firms to start small. "Pick something that will get used and allow you to demonstrate the benefits; you don't have to hold out for the Holy Grail. And report business value, not architectural purity," he said.
The City of Singapore was another customer speaking out on behalf of IBM and SOA at the show. Silvester Prakasam, director for fare systems at the City of Singapore, said that the biggest problem for his organisation was space. Singapore has a population of 4.84 million crammed into 268 square miles, he explained.
"We have exceeded our capacity for roads, and the only way we can go is downwards," Prakasam said. "So we got together with IBM to build a platform for public transport."
The system launched earlier this year and is based around smartcard technology. "People have one card for public transport and motor vehicles. We can rapidly increase prices for using the roads and bring down congestion," Prakasam said. "Road users can switch to public transport quite seamlessly."
He also noted a timely benefit of the system, in light of the current outbreak of swine flu. "If anyone has a contagious disease we can track who they have been in contact with on the transport system," Prakasam explained.
Steve Mills, IBM Software Group's senior vice president and group executive, also used the opening keynote to outline SOA customer examples.
Danish utilities company Dong Energy is using SOA for real-time monitoring and tracking of activity in its power grid. IBM has put sensors on the power grid so that Dong can understand and identify failures and respond more quickly, Mills explained.
BP is another large customer using IBM SOA products. "It's a very sophisticated technical problem associated with oil refineries," Mills said. " They need to understand all the assets in use at the refinery, including the human ones."
To overcome this challenge, Mills outlined how BP is using radio frequency ID and 3D visualisation to track its human and other assets to increase output and ensure safety.
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