Sabre takes alternate route to reach SOA goals

Travel industry firm Sabre says it has benefited by taking the road less travelled with its service-oriented architecture: focusing on external users first, then migrating internally.

The company this week said it was going to extend its use of BEA’s Aqualogic Enterprise Repository 3.0 to govern its Web services, which manage 36 million daily transactions for car, hotel and other travel accommodations. Sabre was using previous versions of the product, Flashline, for four years, long before Flashline was acquired by BEA and rebranded under the Aqualogic banner.

Bob Prevensilk, director of Toronto-based Sabre Holding’s Web services, said the company deliberately started building its service-oriented architecture to allow Web services that would facilitate customer interaction rather than creating internal Web services for its own departments or business partners.

As part of that process, it created a repository that includes sample payloads, responses, test clients, developer guides and pattern documents. That repository was aimed at anyone who wants to consume our Web services, which did include some internal applications. That respository will now take on those who build services as well.

“We’ve already set the stage,” he said. “Now we’re just going to be much more extensive.”

Since launching its Web services, Prevenslik said the volume of consumption has grown about 200 per cent a year, far exceeding expectations. He noted that most enterprise often start SOA internally, but said Sabre’s strategy has offered greater flexibility.

“It’s freed us deep-dive more in terms of how we implement SOA internally and make sure we’re as efficient as possible with our approach,” he said.

Sabre is pushing ahead with SOA at a time when many other organizations are showing little confidence in the concept. A joint Computerworld and Hydrasight research project on the adoption of service oriented architectures within local enterprises revealed some 41 per cent disagree that their organization’s SOA capability is mature, with the same number agreeing their SOA capability will be mature by 2009. Furthermore, 35 per cent don’t believe SOA will be widespread within their organization by 2009.

Hydrasight managing director Michael Warrilow said there is clearly a pool of SOA early adopters who highlighted the potential benefits moving forward but there is a disparity between those who have adopted it and those who haven’t.

“Early adopters consider themselves immature today and are getting most advancement from internal development,” Warrilow said, adding SOA is the new EAI.

Prevenslik said Sabre’s experience has lead the firm to reevaluate how it will manage its IT infrastructure in the long run.

Sabre started out with a mainframe TPF system in the late 1960s, for example, and at one point executives considering retiring it in favour of lower-cost servers.

“Now we think it may have a place as a high-powered server and we changed our plans,” he said.

Given the way hardware changes, Prevenslik characterised Sabre’s SOA initiative as a project that would never really end, but some milestones have already been reached. He said that given his firm’s use of open source he’s hoping BEA will continue to support a wide variety of technologies. He said he has also been asking BEA to consider supporting alternative databases such as MySQL instead of just Oracle’s products.

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