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Standard Life saves £2m in three years by reusing in-house code

Cliff Saran
Financial services company Standard Life has saved £2m over the past three years by fine-tuning its software development to allow it to re-use functionality.

The company has been looking at re-usability for the past 10 years. In 1997 it began building connectors that would allow applications to link to its IMS and DB/2 mainframe databases. Now it has re-usable business services based on a software architecture that allows it to offer new services based around proven IT components.

Standard Life is driving 40% of its entire IT workload - about 1.6 million transactions a day - through its service-oriented architecture, which it calls the "hub-centric infrastructure".

Derek Ireland, application design manager at Standard Life, said his teams have been able to provision re-usable business-level or coarse-grain services.

About 250 such services have been rolled out to cover new business processing, providing claims, customer and debit card data and access to third-party services such as money laundering checks. The architecture is built using XML and web services.

Standard Life identified two types of service-oriented application: one that worked on the concept of a publish and subscribe model and another which used a request reply model. It generated design patterns and best practices for these applications, allowing developers to deploy the patterns in their re-usable components.

Standard Life also set up a business service catalogue, which lists all services its developers can re-use to build applications, managed by a team of software engineers who promote re-use throughout the business.

The architecture has improved the quality and manageability of in-house applications. Ian Muir, Standard Life's senior manager for core technology, said, "We are building applications on a proven framework."

This framework separates coding from the underlying software, allowing for the introduction of changes, such as a new version of Java 2.0 Enterprise Edition or IBM Websphere, in a controlled manner. The framework allows different software versions to be run, avoiding widescale upgrades.

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