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Merrill Lynch Sells Its Web Services Vendor A Web Services Tool

SOA Software will market Merrill Lynch software that exposes CICS transactions as Web services.

Merrill Lynch is reversing the tables and, instead of paying its Web services vendor SOA Software Inc. for tools, it's selling a Web services tool it invented to SOA.

A team of developers at Merrill Lynch, a large mainframe user, built X4ML in 2001 to make its legacy CICS (Customer Information and Control System) transaction systems available as Web services. X4ML is currently exposing and consuming 600 Web services for 40 key Merrill Lynch applications and processing 1.5 million transactions per day, said Andy Brown, chief technology architect of Merrill Lynch, in a recent teleconference announcing the sale.

The value of the sale wasn't disclosed, but SOA Software will rename X4ML Service Oriented Legacy Architecture (SOLA). It will begin offering it early next year with a $125,000 price tag.

"There is no other product on the market with X4ML's ability to scale," said Brown, explaining that Merrill Lynch faced a decision whether to continue developing the tool as its only user or sell it to a vendor capable of funding further development through commercial sales.

Brown recalled that the idea of producing X4ML got a chilly reception inside Merrill Lynch in 2000-2001. "In the beginning, there was a lot of skepticism around Web services as a whole," and whether mainframe operations should be exposed as Web services, said Brown. Now, "Web services have become the universal language of transactions."

Brown said Merrill Lynch management was also skeptical that an in-house tool could be sold to a software vendor. There were additional doubts over whether Merrill Lynch should give up its position of being the only user of X4ML. "It took six months to convince management inside that we were doing the right thing," he said.

Now Merrill Lynch management "is very pleased with the transaction" and the IT budget has been freed from further expense in developing the tool, Brown said. One of the lead developers, Jim Crew, and several members of the X4ML development team are joining SOA Software, previously known as Digital Evolution, along with the product. "Mainframe programmers love it," said Crew during the teleconference. "It gives their programs new life" as part of Web services.

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