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Service-Oriented Architecture and a Rules Engine Facilitate Process Redesign

The Client

A large financial services company with a batch-driven back-office system was having several problems exposing profitability information and reporting to their customers promptly. Netrix applied service-oriented architecture and rules engine technology to keep the data and reporting flowing and minimize the occurrence of business interruption.

The Challenge

A large financial services company with a batch-driven back-office system was having several problems exposing profitability information and reporting to their customers promptly. During the nightly batch processing, the transactional data, which was exposed by a portal, was rendered inaccessible to the firm’s clients. Data warehouse integration within the back-office system was hard-coded and inflexible. Process dependencies were decentralized and difficult to manage, and the entire process was too critical to be shut down for any period to overhaul. The system was essentially ten systems and ten different technologies, all connected in such a way that shutting any one system down would halt the entire operation.

Most problems in business are in some way or another based on the ability (or inability) to integrate the steps within the business process. And most processes are comprised of components (applications, databases, technologies, etc.) that are added one-at-a-time over a period-of-time making it virtually impossible to monitor and gain insight into how these processes work together to solve higher order business problems and issues.

Solving this dilemma while keeping the business online at the same time is no easy task. There are essentially two choices – use service-oriented architecture (SOA) and rules engine technology to build an entirely new environment and do a cut-over (rip and replace), or figure out a way to work around the barriers to achieve the same result.

The first choice, although easier and safer, was cost-prohibitive. The second and much riskier one took the approach that “it doesn’t matter what is inside, just deal with what is available without rewriting everything inside.” In other words, use the “new” technologies of SOA and rules-based decision-making as an “enabler” to leverage existing assets and breathe new life into legacy business processes. Netrix combined the two for an innovative approach to the problem.

The Solution

Netrix took an SOA and rules approach based upon an already-in-place bus and application server technology. The bus and nodes are clustered to meet high availability and scalability requirements. Netrix provided the architecture and implementation services to ensure that the multidimensional cross-platform processes (IBM System, Java, Linux, Microsoft SQL Server, a BPEL engine, rules engine, message router, and gateway) could be logically orchestrated to solve enterprise-class business problems and managed centrally.

Complex integration problems were solved by tying existing solutions together in one central location. The configuration of these processes (choreographing and orchestrating) was stored in the database and could be maintained by business users. The rules engine also enabled the customer to “outsource” some of the process management to their users, thus replacing an expensive and unwieldy code-based process that would also hamper future updates and integrations.

The solution was facilitated by a process orchestration bus and backed by a process orchestration database where the business flows of technical processes are tied together. Independent gateways were built to publish and listen to events on the bus. The messages, which conformed to a canonical standard, allowed expandability to meet future integration needs. Enabling existing solutions on disparate platforms to be leveraged in innovative ways was clearly the key to success. By combining an understanding of the interactions of the business process, with the cause-and-effect of the individual steps, guided by years of experience with the Java Enterprise stack, the clever solution proved to be successful. The result was IT redesign at its best, using SOA and rules to make use of the existing system and process. Business process knowledge and orchestration skills are the secret sauce that Netrix brought to the table to solve the client’s reporting problem quickly and inexpensively.

The Result

  • Transactional batched data update overnight caused access and reporting issues for the firm’s clients.
  • Data warehouse integration with the back-office systems was hard coded, and linear dependencies constrained maintenance and updates without total system disruption.
  • System availability and client access were expected 24/7, so the system could not be offline for maintenance without failing critical and costly SLA commitments.
    • A rules engine and processes were developed so business line stakeholders could play a role in system maintenance and updates.
    • The code-based process was replaced by the rules engine to facilitate future enhancements and updates.
    • Netrix combined the SOA with the firm’s existing technology to circumvent re-work, downtime and budgetary constraints.

      Experience The Impact

      No matter what challenge you’re facing today, our team of technical experts can get you started on a path to a better solution. We’ll partner with you to: 

      • Understand your current technology environment
      • Interview key stakeholders to understand the root of the business issue(s)
      • Propose a solution with projected timelines, budget, and dependencies