To enable greater application interoperability and a migration path for its abandoned middleware, Centrelink has started developing a service- oriented architecture with the open source Eclipse development environment.
Centrelink's national applications architecture manager Steve Crisp told a gathering of IT leaders in Sydney one of the key questions in moving to an SOA was how to design the services.
"One of the tools we've just started designing is based on the Eclipse open source IDE which you can use by itself and is also part of IBM's WebSphere," Crisp said. "We're designing a plug-in that allows us to draw a service with what the operations are and what the fields are. And the metadata that we get out of that, [created] in that tool can be stored and go off to any other tool."
Centrelink joins Ansto as a federal government department using the open source Eclipse to develop applications.
At the heart of Centrelink is the mainframe-based Model 204 database and the Sun-owned Forte middleware which won't be supported past 2008.
Crisp said Centrelink's technical directions are to build a J2EE-based system to replace Forte over the next three years and create an SOA project based on M204 Web services which it has signed a licensing agreement for until 2014.
"If we have to move off M204 we will do it service by service, rather than in one big bang," he said. "Big users in the USA have spent $30 million trying to move from Model 204 to an RDBMS and failed."
Centrelink has been in discussions with other government departments, including the Bureau of Statistics, about sharing the SOA design tool.
"I'm sure there may be other federal and state government people interested in this," Crisp said. "We're hoping at some stage we will be able to show a graphical Eclipse plug-in to enable you to design services and create that sort of metadata that can then feed into other things."
Regarding Eclipse's functionality, Crisp said it is a lightweight development tool that has a good set of features, such as its to-do list.
"Eclipse may become mainstream at Centrelink with the next generation of Notes being built in it," he said. "This should also ease integration."
Centrelink's SOA timeline began with an idea in October 2003 and has progressed to a proof of concept due before May. There is no portal or BPM engine yet, but these may be added later.
IBM Australia and New Zealand Linux business development manager Ivan Kladnig said the integration nightmare organizations face can be offset by adopting Eclipse.
"Eclipse is built on open source and the interoperability and integration is a hhuge benefit," Kladnig said. "The industry has jumped on board and there are over 100 vendors supporting Eclipse."
Kladnig said local uptake of Eclipse has been strong across all industry sectors and good feedback has been received.