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Banker builds 'dream' data abstraction layer

Working for a banking corporation in acquisition mode, Scott Matthew, vice president, office of technology at Pacific Capital Bancorp (PCB), has become a strong advocate of Java and open-source software.

As the California-based corporation acquires banks, Matthew and his staff have been required to work with all manner of applications built in a variety of languages as well as with data sources that make heterogeneous sound like an understatement. As new banks are merged into Pacific Capital Bancorp, connecting disparate databases presents a major problem. Having standard-based tools helps.

"We have to support everything from MySQL to Oracle and back again," Matthew told JDT.

Recently, Matthew has been working on architecture to create a data abstraction layer across all the bank's heterogeneous data sources. But the nagging question he kept asking was: "Is the technology there?"

Pacific Capital Bancorp had used other products that did basic joins between databases that worked OK, but they did not handle issues such as Internet connections and the growing need for Web-based customer applications with the security a bank requires.

Avaki Corp., once viewed as a grid specialist but increasingly positioned as an integration concern, offered Matthew a look at its Java-based framework for managing data integration. While the offer at first seemed "to come out of left field," said Matthew, he soon was impressed.

"They fit one of my architectural dreams," he recalled.

The fact that Avaki combines the functionality for an enterprise umbrella for data integration with a Java open-source foundation was important. The Burlington, Mass.-based vendor also provided support for XML and Web services standards that would support new Web-based banking applications.

Matthew said the implementation of the Avaki enterprise information integration (EII) software for the data services layer was basically "trivial," taking less than two weeks. He had the Avaki services people come in for the installation, which he said was helpful for the skills they contributed to quickly developing a Proof of Concept as well as for the knowledge transfer they provided for the PCB IT staff.

As for tips for organizations attempting similar projects, Matthew advises firms to keep the first few applications simple. For example, one of the first Avaki projects his IT staff did was to take General Ledger (GL) data from an acquired bank and create a combined GL. It was a good project to allow the IT staff to learn how to use the new technology while not being under the pressure of developing a major application.

"I always like to start out small and grow," said Matthew.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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