Oh, SOLA mio

Merrill Lynch invested billions of dollars in an environment that processed 80 million CICS transactions daily every day. Jim Crew, a 14-year veteran, and his development team needed a solution for legacy app integration. "At Merrill Lynch, the majority of the business runs on the mainframe," Crew says. "It's difficult to reuse those billion-dollar investments in newer distributed applications. The right way is to do it using Web services.”

Using X4ML, which Crew developed, Crew and his team made the mainframe part of Merrill Lynch’s SOA. Fast forward a few years and Merrill Lynch has exposed 420 CICS apps as services. “When we did performance testing, there was a tenfold improvement in performance time and the number of transactions we could process,” Crew says.

SOA Software adopted X4ML along with Crew and his team, and created SOLA (Service-Oriented Legacy Architecture) from their expertise.

Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch now processes about 2 million SOLA transactions daily, and estimates SOLA saves it $500,000 to $2 million per application through cost avoidance and direct savings. “We had estimated about $800,000 using traditional technology to build a system,” says John McKinley, ML’s former CTO. “By embracing SOLA, we did the project for $30,000.”

“We didn’t start off on this tack,” Crew, now VP of SOLA at SOA, says. “After the Y2K bust and post 9-11, the economy was in an uncertain state. We were all looking for ways in which we could really take cost out of the infrastructure while at the same time improving reliability and speed.”

Cost saving, then, was the primary factor, and Crew knew leaving the mainframe in place and re-using the existing assets would pay off. “The right thing to do was to incorporate the mainframe into a service-oriented architecture,” he explains.

“We didn’t want to put another simple endpoint-type software to add to the hundreds of other pieces of specific software to add to the problem,” Crew recalls. “We needed a holistic solution to our overall software problem.” His goal was to make the mainframe look just like any other endpoint in the system, which would improve operations across the board.