DreamWorks Moves To SOA

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. is expected to announce Tuesday a successful transition to a service-oriented architecture. (Courtesy: TechWeb)

February 27, 2006

2 Min Read
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DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. is expected to announce Tuesday a successful transition to service-oriented architecture (SOA) to simplify and consolidate key business operations.

The SOA project meant planning, designing, and re-engineering DreamWorks Animation's existing applications. The project, which began in January 2005, took six months to complete.

Several drivers pushed the animator to SOA. The company's transition toward the Linux operating system and open source applications and away from older technology more than a year ago played a key role.

Known for its blockbuster films "Shrek 2" and "Madagascar," the animation shop wanted to free-up data center space to expand its render farm, where server clusters process computer-generated imagery for movie sequences.

It also laid a framework to develop new applications with reusable processes. The SOA module enables DreamWorks to insert code that executes a process, such as employee authentication rights, into software, rather than rewrite similar code for multiple applications.Analysts expect SOA will have a significant impact on businesses as the technology mature. Abe Wong, head of Information Technology, DreamWorks Animation, already sees positive results. "We can increase the speed to write and deploy new applications with many of the reusable components that's now part of the architecture," he said. "For example, we reused the same employee authentication SOA component for all 12 applications we developed." SOA allowed DreamWorks to develop and integrate a new copyright-tracking application with authorization and authentication features for incoming film scripts. Hollywood studios rely on open-source code to protect their digital property rights. DreamWorks took it one step further.

A central repository now maintains data, roles, responsibilities, and workflow information related to the applications. Other business services migrated to the SOA model are company directories, employee bulletin boards, vacation requests, and cafeteria menus.

SOA will allow DreamWorks to continually add business applications, as well as support ongoing enhancements. "We're using HP's Linux reference architecture," Wong said. "HP took a lot of open source technologies and applications and pieced them together to develop this framework."

Wong declined to give details on the investment in the technology. A 2005 survey from AMR Research Inc. of 134 services and manufacturing companies shows 65 percent that use SOA spent less than $1 million in 2004. The research firm said investments in 2005 remained flat, but 60 percent plan increases averaging 17 percent for 2006.

While the appeal of SOA includes faster and more flexible reconfiguration of business steps within a process, SOA's greatest shortcoming remains complexity, including the lack of off-the-shelf software to accommodate the shift, according to AMR Research.DreamWorks Animation runs on the Linux operating system. It uses an Oracle Corp. database, as well as financial and human resource applications, and JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS) for application servers. Custom-built applications, when an off-the-shelf package is unavailable, are written in a J2EE framework.

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