Matrix moves to SOA

Matrix vehicle tracking is in the process of moving from accidental architecture to a service-oriented architecture.
1 November 2007
Matrix's Quinton Pienaar says SOA is an architecture that can be taken forward and managed on a service level rather than an application level.

Local vehicle tracking company Matrix found itself in a position – thanks to a series of acquisitions – where it had what IT operations manager Quinton Pienaar calls “an accidental architecture”. Over time, the company had integrated certain databases and applications without knowing what it wanted to achieve.

“What we`re aiming to achieve now with the business and SOA is an architecture we can take forward and manage on a service level, not an application level. This will mean we can look at what the business needs and not necessarily the technology,” he says.

Matrix started looking at SOA in May 2006. It carried out a proof of concept late last year/early this year, purchased the Sonic enterprise service bus (ESB) from Progress Software, conducted training until April and started the integration, which is still ongoing.

Says Progress SA`s Corey Springett: “We started engaging with Matrix in October last year. It was very interesting; the proof of concept where Sonic was ultimately purchased was a small part of a bigger proof of concept, which involved integrating Matrix`s front-end into its back-end. The Sonic [implementation] was relatively short.”

Progress used a different approach with the Matrix project and rather focused on helping the client become self-empowered. This involved performing the necessary training first, followed by what Springett calls “some hand-holding on site with implementation and integration effort”. Matrix ended up doing the work itself with assistance and guidance from Progress.

A lot of people are paying lip-service to SOA. Matrix has jumped into it head, foot and shoulders, and has committed to it as a strategy.
Corey Springett, Progress SA
“The project ran late,” Springett reveals, “because there were problems from a back-end perspective that weren`t taken into account.”

The project took six months to complete, which was three months longer than anticipated. However, according to Springett, Matrix claimed that had it not been for Sonic, it would have taken longer. “It took them about a month to get Sonic up and running,” he adds.

Long-term goals

Says Progress SA managing director Rick Parry: “The promise of SOA depends to a great extent on a robust backbone – and the enterprise service bus has been shown repeatedly to be the enabler of SOA. Deployed against this, SOA offers a brilliant opportunity for local developers to reuse their applications without rewriting and recompiling their code.”

Pienaar says that in Matrix`s business, time to market with new products is vital. “We are constantly seeking a competitive edge, which prompted an application rewrite. As part of this decision, we chose to go the SOA route. We expect this to confer many benefits, including flexibility, agility and continued use of existing applications, which have been expensed. Our research persuaded us that we needed an ESB; after a review of the market, Sonic was our choice as the ESB with the most features at the lowest price.”

Matrix`s Sonic implementation, which forms part of the larger SOA initiative, will reduce the need for hard-coding of workflow in applications, as this can now be done within the bus.

Says Pienaar: “It will ultimately ease the [amount of work that has to be done] by our call centre, as agents will be able to see all applications and functionality in one screen. It provides investment protection, due to the reuse of amortised applications and flexibility of choice of applications. It also enables ease of integration of existing and future applications, as well as runtime service level agreement monitoring.”

The end result is that the SOA implementation will allow Matrix to focus on business requirements rather than on technology and enforce architectural disciplines, including good governance and standards.

“I think the ultimate benefit is going to be that [SOA] allows us to react to business needs more quickly,” notes Pienaar.

Says Springett: “A lot of people are paying lip-service to SOA. Matrix has jumped into it head, foot and shoulders, and has committed to it as a strategy.”

Today, all of Matrix`s third-party development partners are on board, which means that all developments and redevelopments will henceforth be performed in line with the new architecture.