In-Depth

LexisNexis finds one world, one platform

WINNER - Tools & Technologies category
LexisNexis, Miamisburg, Ohio, provides legal, news, public records, tax and business information to legal, government, corporate and academic markets in online, print and CD-ROM formats. The legal publishing arm of Reed Elsevier plc, the firm has a strong presence in North America, Latin America, the United Kingdom and continental Europe.



LexisNexis development team: Back row: Don Steiner, Joe Keim, Eric Roberts, Jim Caulfield, Andrew Smith. Front row: Jacob Yanes, Diana Rosenal, Cindy Niekamp, Phillip Jacobs.

The company's online products originate in nearly every country in which it operates and, as a result, they all look and behave differently. This means that a global client organization might have many different LexisNexis product technologies to work with, and users might have to learn a variety of products with different behaviors and variations in capabilities.

In January 2002, Reed Elsevier approved the Global Legal Platform (GLP) Project. The goal was to migrate all LexisNexis legal online customers to one online legal information research system. The enterprise transformation project would take more than 18 months and involve 120 developers.

Previously, LexisNexis did all its development in a C++ environment. To speed development, the firm decided to move to a J2EE implementation, using Java as the main programming language.

"Adopting J2EE meant using more third-party technology and open-source tools," said Amy Bloebaum, senior vice president and global products officer at LexisNexis. The company leveraged J2EE technology via IBM's WebSphere Application Server, Oracle 8, XML/XSL, JSP and, for the integration tier, WebSphere MQSeries and JMS. According to Bloebaum, using WebSphere Application Developer Studio under Sun Solaris "as the foundation for application development allowed us to do RAD and testing in a way that our traditional tooling didn't allow."

The project's iterative development plan was supported by tools from IBM Rational, including Rational RequisitePro, Rational Rose and Rational ClearCase.

For unit-level testing, the open-source tool jUnit (hosted on SourceForge) was used, which ensured quick functional regression on individual code components from the initial construction life cycle.

After each build, the team used Segue Software's SilkTest for functional regression of end-user scenarios. SilkTest also allowed for the extension of test cases and scripts. For non-functional testing, the team used performance, load and endurance testing tools such as Radview's WebLoad and Mercury's LoadRunner.

To improve code quality, Borland's Together ControlCenter Version 6.0.1 was configured to run on the GLP code base and generate reports identifying problems, such as unused variables in the code. This significantly reduced code review effort.

Data issues were also key, said Eric Roberts, LexisNexis' vice president of program management and taxonomies. "We had to convert all the data from our existing business units into XML, which increased the ability of customers to access data," he said. "Using XML mark-up taxonomies allowed us to engineer the content of the GLP system to support search and browse capabilities, hypertext linking and sophisticated functions that create wider relationships between documents."

Keeping on the timeline meant doing more things in parallel than ever before, said Jacob Yanes, senior director, Global Program Office. And with development conducted across five countries -- the U.S., England, France, Australia and India -- project managers had to balance the need for working remotely and via video conferencing with the need to get developers in one location.

The new online system was rolled out in Australia and France in December 2003. The system will be rolled out in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Germany in August 2004. The U.S. rollout is scheduled for the 2005-2006 timeframe.

Despite the well-documented gap between development time J2EE performance and real-world mileage, the final app has so far achieved the performance targets as defined by the internal users, said Bloebaum.

With the new platform in place, users will now have a consistent experience with LexisNexis products.

APPLICATION PROFILE

Project: Global Legal Platform Project with Country Adaptations

Purpose: To develop a single product platform and user interface that supports LexisNexis online legal customers globally, but can be adapted to local markets.

Benefits: Single platform has helped individual business units avoid duplicating development work, and made it easier for users to access data consistently.

Platforms: Solaris, MVS TOOLS IBM J2EE WebSphere, MQSeries, eMeta's eRights and Oracle databases

DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Jacob Yanes, Cindy Niekamp, Yaser Zatreh, Marcia Doner, Greg Wilson, Bill Fried, Bob Urbanic, Bobby Khan, Mark Simpson, Fred Smith, Roger Thomas, Chris Anderson, Jim Caulfield, Don Steiner, Phil Jacobs, Joe Keim, Diana Rosenal, Andrew Smith, Brad Clark, Eric Roberts

KEANE REPORT
LexisNexis' innovation lies in its offshore business model, multinational/multilingual integration, and the overall scope of its J2EE enterprise implementation representing a practical implementation of cutting-edge technology. Features of its innovative and best practices use of tools and technology include:

  • Effective offshore development implementation. Business modeling and architecture developed here and strongly managed offshore development.
  • Innovative and extensive use of meta data to index, track and manage data.
  • Multitiered architecture separates presentation logic, business logic, transformation and integration logic, and database logic.
  • Iterative development plan coupled with strong architecture model and supported by Rational development tools.
  • Framework-oriented approach enforced coding standards, boosted productivity.
  • Best practice functional point analysis used during requirements elaboration to scope and plan iterations. GLP integrated numerous, disparate systems into a single, common platform while still supporting the firm's local constituencies.

Keane Team Leader: Thomas J. Mowbray is a practicing software architect with experience on more than 70 IT projects using diverse technologies. He is the author of several books.

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