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Financial firm leverages SOA reuse for mobile services

Services reuse in an SOA makes it possible for Synovus Financial Corp. to extend Windows applications to Internet banking and mobile devices.

Web services reuse is the business driver for the service-oriented architecture (SOA) implementation at Synovus Financial Corp., a $33-billion financial services company based in Georgia.

We've got services that are now used across our call center, our branch platform, our deposit platform, our loan platform, Internet banking and mobile banking.
John Woolbright
Senior Vice President and CTOSynovus Financial Corp.

The company is reusing services so that applications can move out from internal Windows-based clients for loan officers to Internet banking and mobile device access for customers with a minimum of programming, says John Woolbright, senior vice president and CTO.

"We just rolled out a mobile banking platform," he said. "We didn't have to rebuild anything for it, we just reused all the services that we had for our branch platform and our Internet-based consumer banking platform. All we had to do there was QA the applications. You really start seeing some benefits when you get your third of fourth implementation because you're not doing any coding, you're just reusing services that have already been built and tested."

It is not always easy to quantify the return on investment (ROI) from services reuse, Woolbright said, but in he estimates that exposing legacy banking applications via SOA saved the financial services company a million dollars he estimates it would have cost to have an outside vendor replace the applications.

"We were able to do it though our SOA network and build the services ourselves and save a million dollars on that," he said.

Integrating legacy systems and databases to create a service that provided a single view of a customer's accounts and status was an early project that demonstrated the value of service reuse, he said. That service is now available to loan officers, customer service representatives, and via the Web and now mobile devices to the customers themselves.

"We've got services that are now used across our call center, our branch platform, our deposit platform, our loan platform, Internet banking and mobile banking," Woolbright said. "It seems like the more services you get in your inventory, the less you have to build from scratch. You're just reconstituting the services in the different business process. That's a lot quicker development than starting from scratch on every single application."

Synovus is using XML data integration tools from XAware Inc. to provide bring the legacy data into its SOA applications.

"We initially used XAware to build what we call our customer profile service," Woolbright said. "That integrates with our LDAP [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol] systems, mainframe systems and the databases that we have. XAware allows go in and build all those systems a map them into a structured XML Schema. Then we expose those as XML documents up to the BPEL layer and orchestrate a single view of the customer. It allows us to virtualize the legacy data and get that into XML documents."

Woolbright said SOA at Synovus has needed to justify itself with cost savings from its beginning three years ago. The first year was spent creating the architecture before starting the first project. During that process, the CTO and his staff determined that they needed to go with a best of breed approach.

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"Our approach was evolutionary," he said. "It was bottom up in that you had to base it on return on investment. So we couldn't afford to buy a complete stack for the first projects. We built the architecture for the project requirements."

The best of breed includes Forum Systems Inc. for Web services security, Novell Inc. for directory services, Active Endpoints Inc. for BPEL tools, and XAware. The development work is done primarily in Java and uses the Apache Tomcat server.

To make the best of breed approach work, Synovus required all the vendors involved to adhere to a Web services and SOA standards-based approach, including SOAP 1.1 and 1.2, and BPEL 2.0, that assured interoperability. Getting the vendors to do that was one of the biggest challenges of the SOA implementation, Woolbright said.

But once vendors recognized the advantages of interoperability, he said they embraced standards-based interoperability and it became a win-win situation.

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