Wall Street Eyes SOAs

Firms turn to Services Oriented Architecture, despite competing standards

February 28, 2006

3 Min Read
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New York City -- Use of Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs) in the financial sector is on the rise, but a lack of standards remains a major source of frustration for IT managers looking to implement the technology.

This was the message from CIOs and IT managers attending the Web Services/SOA on Wall Street conference in New York today. Skip Snow, enterprise architect at Citigroup, is fully committed to the technology: It would be impossible to organically grow Citigroup without SOA.”

SOA is an architectural approach to building software applications as a collection of autonomous, re-usable business services. The basic idea behind SOA is that it lets users run these applications across different platforms, including the Web. It also becomes the glue by which IT departments look to bind together disparate locations and newly acquired companies, a big requirement given all the M&A activity that's characterized the financial sector in recent years. “We want to respond more quickly,” explained Snow. “We want to have more services re-use.”

Jim Crew, former director of infrastructure and data services at Merrill Lynch, oversaw the rollout of a major SOA project at the investment bank between 2001 and late 2005. He said Merrill Lynch now supports 45 key applications on the technology. “We recognized that Web Services (and) SOA are the future,” Crew explained, adding that the firm’s broker-dealer and 401(k) email systems are part of the SOA.

If users think that SOAs are some sort of technology silver bullet, they should think again, said Snow, who told Byte and Switch that standards need to be sorted out pronto. “It’s a mess. We have the standard wars between the major players -- the vendors should start behaving themselves.”Certainly, there are a still plenty of issues to be ironed out around SOA standards. Vendors aren't necessarily pushing in the same direction. (See SOAs: Approach With Caution, SOS for SOAs, and Burton Group Over Stumbling Blocks.) In Web services management, there are competing standards, such as Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM) which is backed by the Oasis Consortium of vendors, and Microsoft’s Web Services for Management (WS-Management) framework. (See Users Send SOA SOS.)

But Snow really wants the vendor community to turn its attention to WS-Policy, an emerging framework for securing SOAs, being developed by the Oasis consortium. “We want to see WS-Policy turned into a standard as soon as possible,” he said.

Other IT managers attending the show echoed these sentiments. “Each vendor seems to be developing their own standards to govern SOAs. We’re waiting for them to mature,” observed an executive from a New York-based financial services firm, who asked not to be named.

According to Crew, Merrill Lynch took a risk using WS-Policy to support their SOA, even though the framework was still evolving. “We took a calculated risk, on the understanding that, should the standard change, then we would accommodate it.”

Despite the FUD surrounding SOAs, Citigoup and Merrill Lynch are not the only big-name users to put their faith in the technology. Telecom giant Verizon and Guardian Life Insurance have already racked up savings of $20 million and $10 million respectively by deploying SOAs within their IT infrastructures. (See Users Cite SOA Savings.)— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Citigroup

  • Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Verizon Communications Inc.

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