TrueCredit: Charging Ahead with SOA

By John McCormick Print this article Print

The TransUnion subsidiary's pioneering service-oriented architecture approach to software development helps it quickly build credit reporting and scoring applications.

TrueCredit's pioneering work in service-oriented architecture software development allows the company to build fast, reliable applications.

Scott Metzger, chief technology officer at TrueCredit, says that when his company, which markets online credit services to consumers and large financial institutions, started using a service-oriented architecture in 2000 to develop software applications, people didn't really have a name for what he and his team were doing.

So, not surprisingly, as an early pioneer, TrueCredit's software team faced a series of software-oriented architecture challenges.

These included an underpowered hardware platform, the constraints of a homegrown applications development environment, and the hurdles of integrating its software programs with the applications of partner corporations—some of world's largest financial institutions, such as Citicorp, Chase and Washington Mutual's credit card division, also known as Providian.

Yet TrueCredit persisted, adapted and succeeded.

Along the way, there were many changes to the company's infrastructure, business practices and software development methods, but Metzger says pragmatically, "You have to embrace change to support the business."

But support the business he has. Metzger's team over the years has used the service-oriented architecure approach to develop a number of highly successful online tools, such as those available at TrueCredit.com, a Web site that allows consumers to check their credit report, learn about credit ratings and download advice on how to improve their scores, as well as a series of other personal finance tools including FreeCreditProfile.com and KnowYourLoanRate.com.

The company, a subsidiary of TransUnion, the national credit bureau, was able to quickly develop these applications—sometimes in as little as 90 days—using the service-oriented architecture, or SOA, approach.

Lessons From SOA First Movers
1 - Focus on business enablement and value creation
2 - Start small, with a pilot that's targeted to show value
3 - Obtain and showcase leadership support
4 - Identify stakeholders
5 - Define roles and responsibilities
6 - Create a governance model
7 - Define services based on the business
8 - Leverage visualization techniques and tools
9 - Communicate well ... communicate often
Source: IDC

"They look at the way they create their services," says Sandy Rogers, program manager for SOA, Web services and integration software at International Data Corp., "very much the way I envisioned SOA would be."

SOA is a software design framework that organizes the discrete functions in an enterprise application into standards-based, interoperable software units. These units, or services, can represent a chunk of data or instructions on how to perform an activity. These services can then be quickly combined and reused to meet other business needs, negating the need to build these functions into new programs and thereby speeding software development.

One of the biggest benefits of a service-oriented architecture approach, according to Metzger, "was from a reuse perspective. We had identified core business processes that we wanted to make available on different channels of business."

There was another big advantage: Credit rating and scoring products require the collection and analysis of data from multiple sources, such as the big three credit agencies—TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. But since the data and logic of a credit reporting application can be parsed in little pieces across a number of different servers, applications can handle lots of simultaneous users—in TrueCredit's case, up to 50,000 users—because the various pieces of the application work independently.

But building these types of applications isn't easy.

Story Guide:
TrueCredit: Charging Ahead with SOA

  • Building Components in an SOA
  • Making the Architecture Work
  • TrueCredit Base Case

    Next page: Building Components in an SOA

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    This article was originally published on 2006-03-06
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