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SOA App Quickly Boosts Storm Response

First app in Austin Energy SOA project processes 20,000 customer calls a day

By Heather Havenstein
June 26, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - On May 3, Andres Carvallo, CIO at Austin Energy, joked that a spring storm was needed to test the first, newly installed application to run on the electric utility's service-oriented architecture (SOA).

At 9 p.m. the next day, Carvallo got his wish as a severe rain and hail storm rumbled through Austin, leaving 52,000 customers without electricity and putting the new AECall application into action only a day after going into production.

AECall, which links the Austin-based utility's outage management system and call center application, processed more than 20,000 calls per day for three days during the storm. The previous call-processing system would have been overloaded at 4,000 calls per day. "Lo and behold," Carvallo said, "we tested the system" and it worked.

The application was the first to emerge from a plan initiated more than two years ago to build and use an SOA to integrate applications that span the utility's five divisions, he said. At the same time, the new system will eliminate redundant legacy systems, Carvallo added. IBM Tools Put to Use

After a first stab at building an SOA failed, Austin Energy nine months ago started using IBM 's Rational development tools to re-engineer all of its 72 major business processes to be tied into an SOA. The company is also using IBM Rational tools to help model and build new business processes to be linked to the SOA. IBM's WebSphere middleware is used to run the services.

"The SOA is driving everything we do at Austin Energy," Carvallo said. "It touches every major enterprise application."

The new AECall application, for example, uses five different Web services to query the multiple databases where data about customers is housed and to reconcile that information for the outage restoration application, he said.

The utility is now building its second SOA application, which will use Web services to link geographic information system maps to the application its 600 mobile crews use to respond to customer calls. That project is scheduled for completion before the end of this summer, according to Carvallo.

Before working with IBM, Carvallo said, the company made "some unfortunate mistakes" working with another vendor on the earlier failed effort to build an SOA. He declined to name the other vendor.

Carvallo blamed the early failure on the lack of an initial hard-and-fast focus on business processes and a lack of adequate support and services from the undisclosed vendor.

In addition, the company's previous "boil the ocean" integration strategies were driven by IT rather than the business, he said.

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