June 22 2009 12:00 AM

There is a great deal of ambiguity around service-oriented architecture (SOA). It is both a buzzword and a real architecture designed to help banks abstract and expose their core systems. Celent defines SOA to be a set of loosely coupled modular services to support both business and IT requirements. Depending on the requirements and existing infrastructure of the financial institution, different SOA platform solutions would be preferred by different firms.

Celent, in its new report, "Great Expectations: Can SOA Deliver? Part IV: Platform SOA," reviews SOA vendors based upon the Celent ABCD analysis: advanced technology for architecture, banking functionality, customer base and depth of integration to banking solutions.

THE ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY FOR ARCHITECTURE criterion looks at how well the solution supports SOA, examining human BPM, ESB, data services, service orchestration, security, managing and monitoring and registry and repository. Celent gave high marks to vendors based upon either internally developed solutions, solutions developed internally with a partner or certified integration to best-of-breed solutions. IBM scored highest on advanced technology with their broad and deep WebSphere brand. Other top scorers were Oracle with the Fusion/WebLogic stack and SAP with the NetWeaver stack. Fidelity National Information Services also fared well with the Xpress stack.

BANKING FUNCTIONALITY examines how well the solution delivers banking-specific SOA. Celent gave highest marks to vendors with prebuilt, simple and compound business processes for banking; prebuilt front-end interfaces; and data models specific to banking. IBM, Oracle and SAP have banking functionality built into their SOA. Oracle scored the highest due to their offers of the i-flex core and Siebel branch automation solutions. Fidelity was close behind with the TouchPoint product line on the front end and the various Fidelity core systems on the back end. IBM has the very mature IFW. SAP scored well with their IVN, now evolved into BIAN. SAP won the customer battle in that they were able to track and share customer information in banking.

CUSTOMER BASE analysis took into account both the number of customers using the SOA solution and the sizes of these institutions. While the first three parts of the Celent report covered vendors focused in the banking industry, the vendors in this particular report are not necessarily banking- focused. It was, therefore, difficult to receive information about their banking customer base. Vendors not able to provide this information were given a nominal minimum score.

THE DEPTH OF INTEGRATION TO BANKING SOLUTIONS measures the level to which these solutions have pre-built integration to core and ancillary banking systems. This takes the banking functionality to the next level, providing not only business models but also integration to actual service calls or messages in the banking systems. Fidelity won for its multiple integrations to Profile, Systematics, MSP, ACBS, Corebank, Certegy, among others on the back end and its Xpress and TouchPoint application suite on the front end.

Because the focus of this report is on SOA for banking, Celent was looking for solutions that offered both a strong SOA stack and banking-specific functionality. Pure technology stack plays, such as Progress, Sun, Microsoft and Software AG, scored poorly in the breadth of functionality for the banking category.

BART NARTER [bnarter@celent.com] is senior vice president of the banking group at Celent, a research and consulting firm focused on the application of information technology in the global financial services industry.

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