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8/21/2006
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In Focus: Embracing SOA Without the SOA Initiative

Once considered a bleeding-edge technology, service-oriented architectures are becoming the preferred method when a project needs to get done.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) may be just another mind-numbing IT acronym to folks on the business side, but what was once considered a promising (read, bleeding-edge) technology is fast becoming the preferred approach to getting projects done--even among those who have yet to fully embrace SOA.

Take Midland National Life Insurance Company, a decidedly risk-averse private firm based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Midland doesn't have an SOA or even a commitment to an SOA initiative. But when it needed to integrate data feeds from the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. (DTCC), the most attractive option was an SOA-based integration solution from XAware.

"We didn't choose XAware because of their service-oriented architecture," says Paul Swenson, vice president of IT. "We chose them because they guaranteed a solution in less time at a lower cost."

Midland wanted to deliver new online services to its Registered Investment Advisor customers. To make that happen quickly, XAware integrated standard DTCC data feeds on annuity investment positions, financial reporting, pricing information and commissions with Midland's client/server-based policy administration system from CSC.

"We didn't have experience working with DTCC data feeds, and we realized the integrations would require a great deal of development work," Swenson says.

XAware completed the job in 30 days and at 25-percent lower cost than the closest competitor, Swenson says. Specializing in XML- and SOA-based approaches, XAware has built a portfolio of reusable information integration, conversion and exchange services for financial services businesses. In Midland's case, it transformed the DTCC data feeds into the insurance industry's ACORD standard for maximum reusability.

"We don't have any specific plans for other new products," Swenson says. "But having the data feeds in the ACORD format will let us be more nimble and flexible for the future."

Agility and flexibility are the hallmarks of SOA development, and the benefits are leading to mainstream adoption, according to market watcher Evans Data Corp. Twenty-four percent of the 400 respondents to Evans' Spring 2006 Web Services Development Survey said they are embracing SOA, up 85 percent from last year. Thirty percent of respondents said they will be using more than 20 services within the next year, a 58-percent increase from today.

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