US financial firm centralises with IBM

Fidelity National Financial has undertaken a four-year project to replace its distributed, multisupplier computing environment...

Fidelity National Financial has undertaken a four-year project to replace its distributed, multisupplier computing environment with a centralised infrastructure based on IBM technology.

The project, which will cost "tens of millions" of dollars, will enable Fidelity National to increase speed and reduce management complexity in its mortgage division, which processes $8 trillion in loans every night for the nation's largest banks.

Fidelity National chief technology officer Joe Nackashi said the existing infrastructure is built around two IBM eServer zSeries 900 mainframes and 800 to 1,000 servers. Those systems run a range of distributed client/server applications, including Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases. The plan is to consolidate those systems onto three new IBM eServer zSeries 990 T-Rex mainframes running IBM's DB2 database.

The project also involves streamlining Fidelity National's communications with member banks by means of a portal-based system built with IBM's WebSphere middleware and its Rational Unified Process methodology, a set of software development best practices.

"Clearly, from our perspective, we will need fewer people to manage and develop the environment. So you're going to see a clear ROI," Nackashi said.

By choosing a single supplier, Nackashi said he could move away from "the complexities of a client/server distributed world" and to simplify supplier accountability. "You know how it goes when you have all the vendors doing all the finger-pointing."

TowerGroup analyst Guillermo Kopp said there has been steady growth in the amount of IT money financial services companies are spending to replace legacy systems for some years now. The driver is cost containment.

In 2004, system revamps will represent $41.8bn, or 12% of a total $347.2bn that financial services companies are expected to invest in IT worldwide, Kopp said. In 2000, by comparison, legacy transformations represented less than 10% of total IT dollars spent by the industry, Kopp said.

Fidelity's existing Cobol-based mortgage processing system has "significant lines of code", which is a challenge to manage when adding functionality, Nackashi said. And, although 70% of the system's processes operate in real time, customers are asking for more service-oriented architectures, with increased functionality and scalability.

Lucas Mearian writes for Computerworld

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