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DHL parent untangles 'spaghetti infrastructure'

Warnings abound about spaghetti code, especially in legacy COBOL programs, but Michael Herr, senior director of IT at Germany’s Deutsche Post, says watch out for "spaghetti infrastructure."

Spaghetti infrastructure, as Herr describes it, consists of things like a proliferation of point-to-point interfaces developed for one-off projects that are the antithesis of service-oriented architecture (SOA). The problem with spaghetti infrastructure is while one application may speak to second, it takes a whole lot of coding and testing to extend the conversation to a third application.

After completing a study of the IT systems supporting Deutsche Post, the German-based postal and banking company best known in the U.S. for its DHL unit, Herr decided the cure for spaghetti infrastructure was SOA.

Since uncovering the spaghetti, Herr and his Service Oriented Platform (SOP) Group colleagues working with consultants from IONA built an extensible SOA infrastructure on IONA’s Artix extensible enterprise service bus (ESB).

"We decided to build our own mediator," he recalls, speaking from Germany in a phone interview with eADT. "We called it 'service backbone.' The service backbone is completely based on Java. It’s not a hub-spoke approach. It’s distributed. Therefore we don’t have a bottleneck. We can scale."

The result is an IT foundation that he says is flexible enough to support major business initiatives such as DHL going head-to-head with FedEx and UPS in the US this year.

With the service backbone, Herr says, it is possible to pull together legacy systems to support new Web applications. As an example, he says the SOP Group integrated DEC, VMS and Informix systems into global Web-based customer service applications that support the company's call centers.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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