Service-oriented model raises software standards

Standard Life has implemented an IT infrastructure that will allow it to support three times as many applications with the same...

Standard Life has implemented an IT infrastructure that will allow it to support three times as many applications with the same number of staff, based on a service-oriented architecture.

Its approach has been highlighted by analyst firm Forrester Research as a prime example of how business can benefit from the service-oriented architecture, a method for building IT systems highlighted by analysts as a key business development for the next decade.

Service-orientated application development is based on re-using pieces of software to reduce the amount of new code that needs to be developed, so reducing errors.

Standard Life trained 250 staff in Java and 200 in XML to build the architecture. Deploying the re-usable software has allowed the company to save £2m in the past three years, the firm said.

Service-orientated architectures are tipped to become widely used in corporate IT because of their potential to cut costs and improve the quality of IT systems.

Jost Hopperman, vice-president of research at Forrester, said, "Standard Life has defined a state-of-the-art business service model. Many areas [of its architecture] represent best practice."

Hopperman was also impressed by the way the Standard Life infrastructure could accommodate multiple versions of business services. It lets applications use an older version of a service instead of requiring modification to support software changes.

This also means that applications are more likely to work first time because the software has already been tested.

Ian Muir, Standard Life's senior manager for core technology, said the firm was using 70 applications based on service-orientated architectures and was using the method for IT software development. So far, the approach has enabled the IT team to support 350 applications without additional staff.

The approach has improved software quality, Muir said, and cited the roll-out of a new pension application in January. "When we built the application we knew it would work," he said.

A team of system analysts who promote best practice in re-using business services have been key to the success of the architecture, Muir added.

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