After 15 years of useful life, CORBA is currently being retired and replaced with Web services. It’s interesting to see that many of the initial performance challenges have appeared again with the switch to the new technology.
It took four years from the strategic decision until the whole organization was fully committed to the plan. This is because it takes a while to fully deploy complex middleware technology in an environment that’s sensitive to performance, stability, and security. The real challenge has been the stamina and governance needed to make this strategic decision pervasive—it took 10 years before everybody accessed the mainframe through the service layer. We debated whether this is unusually slow, but we’re now convinced that this is normal for this kind of organization and application landscape. On the business side, the SOA approach has helped revolutionize user interfaces. Nobody accesses the mainframe through terminal screens anymore. Credit Suisse has built several Internet channels on top of the service layer, from a simple electronic banking application in the beginning to today’s sophisticated mobile banking.
And, the thrilling conclusion:
Looking back over 15 years of enterprise service architecture at Credit Suisse, we’ve learned a few lessons. First, deep architectural changes in large companies take longer than most people think. The reason for this is because most projects are risk-averse and only want to adopt a proven approach. Proving a new approach plus the time lag between design decisions and implementation completion adds up to three to four years. After that, depending on the rollout strategy, it could take several years to fully implement a strategy. Patience and stamina are absolutely necessary for success in this field. If your CIO wants to see results within a quarter, SOA or other enterprise architecture approaches aren’t worth pursuing. Second, when thinking about SOA, technology on an enterprise scale is a nontrivial prerequisite, but it’s the easier part. Orchestrating the entire organization around SOA, providing a proper semantic framework to create a common language across the organization, and implementing the necessary governance processes are the harder parts, in our opinion.