The web-enabling and connectivity that arises from service-oriented architecture (SOA) can be a mixed blessing if the underlying software’s processing speed is not fast enough, according to Synchronised Software managing director Rory Wainer.

“You install an SOA layer on a system and you are opening up a path that otherwise might not have existed,” Wainer says. “A lot of older systems can handle 50 or 100 users at one time with good results, but then you publish an SOA layer and expose it to the internet. The share market has a big move, you get 20,000 people trying to look at their account balance all at once, and the system grinds to a halt.”

The architecture of applications written as little as ten years ago would struggle to survive in today’s “open world”, Wainer continues. “Too many vendors don’t want to take the risk of building a new system. They say things like ‘we’ve put 15 years of investment into this code, we’re not going to chuck it out’, so what they’ll do is put some lipstick on the pig. But fundamental change is what’s being demanded – we estimate that [our new member administration system] CapitalX is 30 to 50 times faster than [old system] Capital.”

Wainer was speaking shortly after tests conducted in Hewlett Packard’s Sydney laboratories clocked CapitalX at a processing speed of 2.3 million members per hour on a trial monthly ‘fees and charges’ debit run for an industry fund product. Wainer says that a typical super fund with 500,000 members would tend to run a fees and charges process over a whole weekend, but that CapitalX was testing at speeds ten times faster than that.

With super funds wishing to offer a widening array of services to members, Wainer says system speed is critical, as is a database designed to partition data and workload. “For our clients this is very important. It gives them so many more options, they can offer more complex feature rich products without paying performance penalties, and it lowers scheduling risks, delivers faster customer service for other processes such as contributions processing, annual statements and the like, and provides business process certainty because there is more time being made available to run these processes. A reduction in costs is immediately obvious because lower cost hardware can be used and staff costs can be contained.” Wainer says.

David Tuke, Syncsoft’s research and development manager, says: “Using an 8 CPU system and a storage area network our testing ran fairly consistently at 30 per cent CPU utilisation, indicating that better results can be obtained with faster I/O subsystems and tuning the database.”

At presstime, several market observers of the Superpartners system replacement review had identified the surviving bidders as CapitalX (with a systems integration assist from Hewlett-Packard) and a systems-rebuild option from India’s Tata Corporation.

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