Banks put heads together for SOA

Two senior software architects from a couple of Australia's biggest banks have joined forces to combat one of the biggest challenges facing enterprise development - service oriented architecture (SOA).

Peter Campbell, enterprise architect at ANZ, and Rob Janson, corporate banking/Internet banking development lead at National Australia Bank, have formed a working relationship aimed at solving common SOA design problems.

The Melbourne-based pair, who started the Enterprise Java user group, have expanded their group meetings to other cities in an attempt to improve knowledge-sharing on SOA.

"We're now looking at wider-ranging issues than Java technologies," said Campbell, the group's president.

"A lot of smaller companies are grappling with the same [SOA] issues; things like exchanging and automating business processes."

SOA is a major frontier for enterprise development across many industries, according to Campbell. He and Janson meet with about 50 to 80 others each month in Melbourne to discuss their progress. Both encourage more IT decision-makers to attend the fledgling groups in Sydney and Brisbane.

"A lot of us are living in a parallel universe," said Janson.

"You've got all these companies, all doing the same things with Web services, and they're all making the same mistakes."

There has been no mandate for the ANZ and NAB to co-operate. Instead, Campbell and Janson found a common interest when Janson worked for an IT consultancy. Still, the B2B nature of Web services meant regular discussions with industry counterparts helped, according to Campbell.

"Banks have relied on file transfer for a lot of interoperability.

"But that's changing to real-time, direct services," he said.

"Rob and I have been looking at setting up Web services standards in banking," although he added it was "early days yet".

Establishing such standards was not essential, he said, but made life easier.

"We don't need to agree on services, but by having them done in a common way, we gain consistency."

This had benefits for bank customers, he said.

For example, a common bank service on the Web, such as 'get balance', could be reused across the banks' Internet, phone and branch channels. This way, a balance would be presented in a standard form, regardless of the channel used. This would help prevent the familiar scenario of a branch transaction not showing online immediately, Campbell said.

Other customer-related services the two may work on include customer signature and payment scheduling.

This SOA approach marked a fundamental shift in how business designed services, according to Campbell.

"What was EAI (enterprise application integration) is transitioning from proprietary solutions to standards-based integration," he said.

This was evident in ANZ's recent CRM project, iknow.

While it was not a big implementation, iknow delivered CRM views of aggregated customer data by tying 'siloed' systems together, Campbell said.

"Iknow is using services on our enterprise service bus, which we're transitioning to the next level of capability."

While detailed architectures of systems such as iknow cannot be shared due to commercial sensitivity, Campbell and Janson still find plenty to discuss.

"It's of interest for us to work together," said Campbell.

"And while it's not necessary, it might turn out that we've got half the picture [for SOA] and NAB's got the other half."

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