P&O Ferries charts course for SOA to cast off duplication in systems

P&O Ferries is about to embark on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) project it believes will pay for itself within two years.

P&O Ferries is about to embark on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) project it believes will pay for itself within two years.

The ferry company, which carries 13 million passengers a year, found many of its existing business applications were performing similar functions, said Steve Simmons, head of architecture at P&O Ferries.

Applications designed to perform tourist reservations, freight booking and passenger check-in had much in common, he said. "Each of the three applications has its own pricing system, ship inventory management, sailing services and credit card authorisation. There was a huge amount of duplication."

In a pilot that is due to start in the next few weeks, the company will begin to move to a service-oriented architecture to streamline applications. "What the SOA offers us is the opportunity to take that duplication out and put in common services," said Simmons. "The legacy code is offered as a service."

P&O has chosen Cape Clear's enterprise service bus (ESB) software to manage the services.

ESB is an open standards-based messaging middleware that provides secure interoperability between enterprise applications via XML and web services interfaces.

This will be the first time an ESB has been deployed at sea and on land in the same implementation, said Cape Clear.

Simmons said that by preserving investments in legacy applications while moving to a new architecture, the project should pay for itself within two years. He did not disclose the project's cost.

Getting software engineers to adapt to the new environment was more of a challenge than getting the technology to work, he added.

"The technology has fallen into place fairly well - the challenge has been changing the mindset. It's a new approach to systems development - a shift in thought from having integrated systems to individual services.

"Now the IT team is very enthusiastic about delivering the new technology."

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