For half a decade, Countrywide Financial has seen its loan, insurance, and banking services businesses grow dramatically -- and its IT systems increase in complexity -- as customers, products, and markets have multiplied. To meet this increase in demand, Countrywide decided to embrace a flexible SOA approach, the long-range goals for which are a familiar refrain in enterprise IT: decrease complexity, improve scalability, and reduce overhead.
Countrywide is divided into separate business units, each of which employs an IT staff that operates fairly autonomously. One unit, Countrywide Servicing Systems Development (CSSD), which primarily supports the company’s loan division, began its SOA effort in 2002.
According to Peter Presland-Byrne, senior vice president of application development at CSSD, the unit chose the SOA approach because “applications support a business problem and so follow certain patterns” that lend themselves to two key attributes of an SOA: functional abstraction based on services and an emphasis on reusable components to provide those basic services. “We’re trying to look at the construct of the business model from a services perspective,” he says.
As it began implementing an SOA, CSSD quickly discovered that many applications had embedded within them services that duplicated functions in other applications.
“We needed to abstract the services, which is an ongoing process,” and to decide which ones to choose when there were duplicates, Presland-Byrne says. He anticipates the need to abstract services further in order to support Web services because such support “doesn’t come naturally” in an IBM iSeries midrange server environment, which is what CSSD uses.
Deriving core services and having applications access common ones rather than implement their own is a key part of the SOA approach and requires a development culture that focuses on reuse, Presland-Byrne notes. To encourage adherence to the SOA, Countrywide reviews new software development to ensure it fits the SOA, provides consistent interoperability, and reuses existing services where possible. Countrywide originally looked at SOA as its central goal but later realized the central goal was reuse, which an SOA promotes. “If you truly support reuse, then you make SOA possible,” Presland-Byrne says.
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