In-Depth

Collection takes Web services route

HONORABLE MENTION: Web Services

Meta data management is something of a new concept among financial service providers, but it proved to be key to the success of a major IT innovation at CompuCredit. Last March, the Atlanta-based specialty financial services and credit card company asked its IT organization to develop a way for its collection agents and customer service reps to use Web services to access and process data in real time. This January, the group went into production with a solution: an information portal called the XML Business Gateway.

"We made a bet that internal credibility would be faster and cheaper than integration," said Guido Sacchi, CompuCredit's CIO. "We were able to deliver Web services to the business users' desktops so that they could get money out the door quicker."

The XML Business Gateway consists of four components: Enterprise Metadata Repository (EMR), which is the "dictionary" and meta data repository for the entire company; Data Aggregation Services, which serves as the middleware layer for app-to-app internal credibility; XML Integration; and a Web services engine that is used to extract services from the apps and deliver them to end users' desktops.

"Every day we receive data from a variety of sources that we must store in our databases and make available to our business users, either for analytics or direct operations," Sacchi explained. "To integrate that data, you can try to put everything in one place, but that is costly and futile because there are so many external sources that you don't control. We decided that we could provide internal credibility by dealing with the data in a standardized way. XML gives us the standard, EMR gives us a way to make sure that we know what is meant by each piece of information stored in the databases, and the Web services engine distributes the services to the desktops."

The XML Business Gateway, primarily through the EMR component, consolidates and maintains business terms. The EMR achieves semantic integration by wrapping terms and definitions around data elements to create the meta data. The company worked with Software AG to develop EMR, which resides on that company's Tamino XML Server. As a result, the Gateway has become the company's de facto location to manage business processes. Business users have become more productive, Sacchi said, and EMR has also eliminated code redundancy.

By embedding logic and workflow into the meta data and Web services, the system achieves process integration by automating data analysis and business processing within the enterprise.

APPLICATION PROFILE

Project: XML Business Gateway

Purpose: To simplify integration by standardizing and reusing meta data, as well as enabling IT to offer faster and better services.

Benefits: Users are more productive because they know where to go to find data and create reports, who else uses those reports, what data is in them, and how changes to that data affect them.

Platform: Linux TOOLS Tamino, Software AG's EntireX Mediator, Apache, Tomcat, Axis, ANT, CVS

DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Chris Donovan, JP Morganthal, Ravi Gopolan, John Stone

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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