Tobacco firm shifts development to SOA

Development platform will be used at 180 sites worldwide

British American Tobacco PLC this week will start moving developers at 180 locations worldwide to a new development platform as the company begins to build most new applications as services.

The London-based supplier of tobacco products plans to move developers using tools from Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp. and IBM to service-oriented architecture (SOA) tools from Skyway Software for almost all new custom development, said Kevin Poulter, application technology manager at British American.

This week, 15 developers in British American's Kuala Lumpur group services division will begin using Skyway's SOA Builder software.

Developers at other locations will start using the tools throughout the year. Poulter said he expects that applications built using the tools will go into production during the second half of the year.

British American, which has used Web services to integrate applications since 2002, will also use Skyway to migrate existing applications worldwide—including 6,000 built in Lotus Domino and 200 custom applications used at its headquarters—to Web services and services native to Java.

"We wanted to get all those developers brought onto a common platform," Poulter said. "It gives us much better options in consolidating infrastructure for cost savings."

The company hasn't calculated potential cost savings from the shift to an SOA-based application development model. But Poulter noted that using Web services to integrate applications over the past two years has been 60% to 70% cheaper than traditional hard-coded integration.

The move will also help support British American's architectural vision of running "loosely coupled" composite applications made up of processes that can be easily tied together or uncoupled when business requirements change, Poulter said. For example, the company has built a Web service that provides daily updates to its global procurement system, based on fluctuating exchange rates.

To support the move to an SOA, British American developers must shift from focusing on coding to working on incorporating business requirements into new composite applications, Poulter said.

"You're trying to [bring] people to a higher-level development paradigm so they are closer to the business-analyst-type developer," he said.

Skyway's SOA Platform offerings provide model-driven development techniques that allow developers to build services, processes and applications without having to write code or know programming languages, said Jared Rodriguez, CEO of Tampa-based Skyway.

Daryl Plummer, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said Skyway's tools are an example of a so-called integrated service environment (ISE) designed to allow developers to assemble services for creating new applications without coding.

"With an ISE, you get the pieces—it may be a Web service, a Java component, .Net component, a file or a database," Plummer said. "The work is at a higher level of abstraction, so it is not code work, it is assembly work. You have to be able to figure out which pieces you want and make sure they have the right data and that you can relate them to other pieces."


Skyway's SOA Builder Tools

Use modeling for designing, constructing and assembling components into services.

Require no coding or knowledge of programming languages.

Allow developers to connect to databases, native Java services and Web services.

Support multiple developers with a graphical, network-aware version-control repository.

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