Standard Life speeds projects and saves £16m with SOA

Standard Life has saved nearly £16m in development costs in the three years since it embarked on a programme to develop and reuse software modules around a service-oriented architecture framework.

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Standard Life has saved nearly £16m in development costs in the three years since it embarked on a programme to develop and reuse software modules around a service-oriented architecture framework.

The insurance and pensions firm has more than 200 applications in development that are making use of its code library, which now has 440 available services, and there have now been more than 1,200 instances of reuse.

Group technology director Russell Irwin said that in the past two years the provision of SOA services for Standard Life’s development teams had grown sharply, from 70 “consuming applications” in 2005 to today’s figure of 200.

And Derek Ireland, who is in charge of the insurer’s IT architecture, said that many of the insurer’s key strategic products were now making use of this SOA capability.

“We have an executable framework on top of which we deliver applications. Within this we provide SOA services, and the framework also provides other pooling and development efficiencies,” said Ireland.

The saving Standard Life reckons to have made comes from counting every instance of reuse of a service and putting a standard value on that service, he added.

The insurer has an IT staff of about 1,000, split roughly equally between development and service roles. Ireland said the programme of reuse had allowed it to speed up turnaround times on its IT projects to take on more projects without the need for more staff.

He said the other key benefit of a service-oriented architecture was that it enabled the company to maintain numerous “heritage” databases by adding consistent front-end functionality to get the best out of reliable, stable systems that might otherwise need replacing.

“The pensions business is necessarily a long-term business, which means we have applications that support products with a long shelf life,” said Irwin. “We can make functionality available through the SOA that means we don’t have to make wholesale changes without a strong case being made.”

Irwin said the approach “takes pressure off the legacy agenda” and migration projects can happen at the right time and for the right reasons.

“We don’t have a wholesale migration process under way but where there is a business case and a need to provide multi-channel capability the SOA and the framework for our developers gives us options.”

Standard Life’s IT infrastructure includes Intel and AIX mid-range boxes and IBM mainframes, and uses databases including Oracle and IBM's DB2.

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