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Car-Navigation Firm Migrates To SOA

OnStar, the provider of vehicle GPS systems, plans to increase its applications' speed and processing times by using a service-oriented architecture to remove redundant code and insert a business layer.

OnStar is moving its technology platform from Web services to service-oriented architecture (SOA), the company said.

Many of the software business rules that make OnStars tick are embedded in applications. To increase efficiencies and speed processing times, the plan is to remove redundant code and insert a business layer. "It will allow us to reuse different functions and business processes more easily," said Kathy Kay, OnStar director of application development and support. "We will pull out functions to create separate processes."

The migration to SOA, in part, is to prepare for the increase in business. OnStar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors Corp., whose plan is to install the service in all its vehicles by the end of 2007.

OnStar began in May 2005 putting the architecture together. The project kicked off in June. The company has plans to move between seven and eight application platforms, such as Emergency Services, Vehicle Services, Business Objects and Billing.

Requirements for the back-office infrastructure are still being determined. Beginning at the end of this month through March, the IT group will have completed all necessary hardware and software and submit recommended designs.

Most of OnStar's software and architecture are proprietary and considered "the family jewels," Kay said. There are software applications to handle service calls, talk to the vehicle and vehicle diagnostics through e-mail. OnStar released in September a service called OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics that performs routine checkups on the vehicle via satellite and e-mails a monthly diagnostic report with details to the owner.

SOA has its benefits other than providing easy integration with third-party software. The Aberdeen Group said companies can save up to $53 billion in IT spending during the next five years by implementing SOA. Industry analyst William Mougayar said the business benefits of SOA remain largely untapped, and only 16 percent of companies have had more than 24 months of SOA experience.

Emergency Services is the first project OnStar's IT group will release. It is scheduled for mid-year. Others dates include September and October, but not all projects have been assigned to dates.

The core teams of about 125 software developers and systems engineers are OnStar employees, but the company follows the same IT outsourcing model as GM by bidding out the development.

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