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Carphone says SOA delivers apps faster

Telco ties business processes to modular software services

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Carphone Warehouse claims that its move to service-oriented architecture (SOA) has enabled it to deliver applications two to three times faster than before.

The mobile phone retailer-turned-telco is adopting SOA as a way to pull together the IT systems of its various operating groups, reducing duplication and making software modules re-usable.

"We were very much a build house, we even built our own middleware," said Carphone's architecture director David Byrne. He said while that approach was OK for where the business was, it brought problems as the business grew and spawned new groups.

Each group had its own custom systems, so each software product in effect only had one customer, and in some cases they did the same things. For example, there were three different systems setting up direct debits and when the rules changed all three had to be updated independently.

"It's a very dynamic business and we've had a lot of product launches - some of them infamous," he added. "A lot of those products require information to be exchanged across business groups."

The move to SOA is based on software from business process specialist Tibco, he said, including message-passing software which acts as the glue to hold it all together, and tools to help build services and capture business logic.

"We are now delivering services in 30 per cent to 50 per cent of the time it would have taken previously," Byrne said.

He added that a key part of adopting SOA has been for the IT group to switch its main focus from developing software to enabling communication between business groups - helping them to identify common business processes that can then be implemented as re-usable service modules.

"We are probably forced to spend 80 per cent of our time bringing people together and getting them to communicate," he said. "I've run integration projects for eight years now, I used to hire engineers and now I hire communicators." ®

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