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Insurance that SOA works

The Hartford Financial Services Group created an SOA-based reference architecture using a UDDI registry to simplify application component reuse.

Insurance and security may be what The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. offers its customers worldwide. But...

it's also what the investment and insurance provider's application delivery group was looking for when it created an SOA-based reference architecture using a UDDI registry so that the company's four lines of business could leverage the same applications.

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"We wanted to move away from siloed applications to an enterprise approach," said Ben Moreland, director of the property and casualty division's application delivery group.

In 2003, Moreland's group tackled scalability issues with its single-entry multiple-carrier interface (SEMCI) application that exchanges documents in Accord XML. Accord XML is an insurance industry standard the enables agents to obtain client information and broadcast it to other carriers and receive quotes in return..

Moreland said the SEMCI application was built in 1997, but it was too tightly coupled because the discovery of Web services had to be hard-coded into the application, and any changes required more coding.

"We felt this was the perfect candidate to bring into a service model," Moreland said. "We view each step as a service, that way you only have to orchestrate that."

The introduction of a UDDI registry enabled the application to do dynamic binding checks with the registry as the application evolves, Moreland said. UDDI is a Web services protocol that discovers and stores services.

"We created a use case that goes through all the steps. We used UDDI's lookup capabilities to pull information from a message, get the service we wanted, then dynamically call it," Moreland said. "With the lookup, we find the end point, call it and get a return value. This provides enormous flexibility."

Used in conjunction with Accord XML version 2.0, The Hartford created new services, published them to the UDDI registry without any changes to the orchestration.

Moreland said the registry facilitates service and component reuse by providing the architecture with the ability to look up services that exist and reuse them.

The immediate gain Moreland identified were efficiencies in bringing the application and services online quicker.

"Our project uses .NET clients and Java services. Our group was looking at three to six weeks to develop a bridge to connect the two," Moreland said. "We could do it in an hour through our management platform and UDDI. Another project was cut down from weeks to hours as well because we are able to use the same services for each application."

Moreland breathes a sigh of relief that the days of the standard application development model are over for The Hartford.

"If you had to make a change, you were dealing with the entire application, doing regression testing etc.," Moreland said. "It's the same way most companies do it. Now we've got an advantage in that if there's a bottleneck, we're dealing just with the service and it doesn't impact everything else in an application."

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