Case Study: ESB Helps Stratus Clear Road Partners

ESB: A Building Block to SOAStratus Technologies cornered itself in a common way—the B2B system that processed orders from its Oracle ERP system to its partners wasn’t going to be supported much longer. That left only two options: upgrade or find another solution.

“The system was servicing us well for what we had, but the business problem was leveraging integration with new suppliers and trying to incorporate it with other suppliers,” says Cecilia LeBlanc, Stratus’ applications/ IS manager. Maintaining and modifying the system proved too costly in consulting expenses and man-hours.

Stratus’ partners generally had their own communication systems, so Stratus either added more code to its system or sent software to its partners for installation. Both ways proved troublesome.

“We were looking for something completely based on an open platform and using standards,” she says. “We wanted to take out that whole: ‘Man, we’ve got to upgrade again!’ We wanted to get it out of our hair.”

Stratus Technologies provides fault-tolerant computer servers, technologies and services for credit card and ATM networks, 911 emergency call centers, securities and brokerage firms. The company investigated the integration buzz and discovered service-oriented architecture. “SOA is important to us, so that led us to go down to the road of ESB,” LeBlanc says.

It selected Cape Clear Software’s ESB, wrapping up the implementation earlier this year.

Stratus’ first ESB project concentrated on its order processing system, replacing the integration software. Its ERP system exposes eight services to its partners through the Cape Clear ESB: order, order commit, order acknowledgement, change order, product ship notice, invoices, serial numbers and price list update. Stratus employees monitor the system from any location using a browser to view the exact order status. The ERP system manages up to 100,000 active processes at any one time.

Stratus’ business processes—in the form of Business Process Execution Language—and applications are exposed as Web services to a partner’s system, regardless if it’s either proprietary or standards-based.

A partner maps its data formats to Stratus, establishing dialogue with Cape Clear ESB’s graphical mapping and transformation features. Stratus doesn’t map the data for it partners, but can—if necessary—with the Cape Clear ESB.

A service recognizes data, transforms it into an XML document, then sends the document via HTTP to a partner’s system. The partner’s system recognizes the document and proceeds, she adds.

Not all of its contract manufacturers expose their systems to Stratus, so Cape Clear’s support for messaging standards, including HTTP, HTTPS, JMS, SMTP and WS-RM, helps Stratus access pertinent information. The fault-tolerant server provider can use an ESB’s data transformer to map a manufacturer’s text files into XML.

Cape Clear ESB automatically checks incoming and outgoing messages via WSDL and XML for correct data type, data length and other issues. It also checks for errors in a contract manufacturer’s data, notifying them if there are problems. The ESB won’t send the data to Stratus until its contract manufacturer fixes them.

Stratus saves nearly 80 percent over manual order processing, increasing productivity and reducing headcount. It now costs Stratus 60 percent less to connect a new business partner than the previous B2B setup, and saves 70 percent on system maintenance.

Taking a segmented approach proved to be successful, according to LeBlanc. “It’s shorter and quicker wins, so you build up to a vision of where you want to be,” she says.

LeBlanc says Stratus is planning future projects, but internal projects take priority. The company will extend its integration connections to other partners, create processes or a series of services so customers will communicate with Stratus, and internal systems.

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About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.