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Software // Enterprise Applications
01:50 PM

Escape From Legacy Systems

A new architecture has let EPL add features more quickly, reduce defects, and cut customer installation times from 25 hours to four hours per branch.

EPL Inc. was in rough shape two years ago. The provider of data-processing services and custom software to credit unions had reached a technology dead-end with its Cobol-based IT architecture constructed from a hodgepodge of development languages. A PricewaterhouseCoopers study concluded that the tangled architecture prevented EPL from effectively developing the software its clients needed, created quality-control problems, and increased development costs.

"We just couldn't keep up with the needs of the industry," says Michael Stoeckert, EPL's CIO and chief technology officer. It also was a time of rapid industry consolidation. If EPL hadn't overhauled the IT underlying its products--including a 22-year-old core application with 22 million lines of code--it would have lost business and likely become a takeover target, Stoeckert says.

EPL began redeveloping its IT products in 2001, using a Web-based, thin-client architecture with applications written in Java 2 Enterprise Edition running on Oracle software. EPL built an Internet-extranet portal site that customers could use to conduct transactions with other credit unions. The Oracle technology provided 75% of the needed functionality "out of the box," Stoeckert says, saving an estimated $500,000 in development costs.

EPL then built an Oracle-based core retail banking app called i-Power with clustering technology to support high transaction volumes. EPL uses Java programming tools from Borland and Oracle, and testing tools from Mercury Interactive. EPL also is using Oracle's Collaboration Suite internally and will offer it to customers as part of i-Power for such applications as searching for receipts in PDF format in the Oracle database.

The architecture has let EPL add new features more quickly, reduce defects, and cut customer installation times from 25 hours to four hours per branch.

To help customers' transition to the new system, EPL is developing versions of its old applications using Cobol tools from Micro Focus International Ltd. that will run on Sun Microsystems servers and communicate with the Oracle database. Those apps, which can be easily converted to Java when customers are ready, will be available next spring.

EPL's moves are going over well with 20-year customer Kern Schools Federal Credit Union in Bakersfield, Calif., which expects to finish rolling out the software to its 12 branches by early next year. The software will make it easier to integrate third-party apps and let EPL add features more quickly, VP of IT Dave DuBose says, adding that "our [employee] training times are dramatically dropping."

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