Born into the chaos of a large implementation effort, Israel-based Opal Future Technologies took the reins of eight struggling pension funds -- each with its own unique IT platform -- and threaded them together into one.
The key technologies Opal wove together to complete the endeavor were .Net programming know-how, a Java-centric IBM WebSphere portal container, and a portlet-building development platform that supports code in either scheme: Mainsoft's .Net Extensions for WebSphere Portal.
Seeking to turn around the fortunes of eight separately managed, insolvent pension funds, which collectively serve 3 million participants and hold more than $20 billion in assets, the Israeli government passed legislation in 2003 to consolidate them.
The resulting pension management giant created Opal in 2005 to provide an IT infrastructure across the eight funds, each of which ran on different platforms (IBM mainframe, IBM minis, and Windows-based) and different databases (Informix, DB2, and Microsoft SQL Server). Moreover, a majority of the apps in play had been developed internally by the funds’ separate IT groups, further complicating the government’s mandate to consolidate the funds’ disparate technologies into a single, unified system.
“We needed something that would support the 650 users with applications supporting investment decisions, CRM, compliance functions, and internal finance,” says Alex Libis, Opal’s information and data security manager. “We also knew that the key must-have feature was single sign-on, which, in turn, required stringent but efficiently managed role-based access and security.”
The four-month design effort yielded a back-end system decision, IBM’s DB2 Content Manager, and Opal’s staff brought over 30TB of account holder and investment data from an open source .Net portal, DotNetNuke, and Microsoft IIS servers.
Having a back end in place helped focus Opal’s portal choice, as the firm decided to go with IBM WebSphere Portal, which runs on four IBM System p servers.
While the Java-centric WebSphere threatened to slow down Libis’ small, Microsoft .Net-adept development staff, the .Net Extensions technology from Mainsoft facilitated their efforts to connect .Net code to drive WebSphere portlets. The group’s pilot test cross-compiled .Net code directly into JSR 168-compliant portlets that ran locally on the portal. The pilot project was Opal’s largest and most logically complex .Net application, and Libis said it took only three days to get it running.
“In four months, our .Net team integrated six ASP.Net applications into the portal,” Libis states, “while our Java developers integrated 30 Java applications into the intranet site.”
Integration at high speed -- a surefire way to stem the chaos.
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