This week has been just crazy. And today proves to be even busier, but I wanted to make sure that I moved this forward and talked about the supporting PLATFORM tools supporting the Financial Value Chain. With so many companies espousing web services and service oriented architecture, it's important to note features of base platforms that can be leveraged to extend competitive advantage for a consumer/provider of that service as well as the unique value proposition that Microsoft brings in our tools and platform that compel usage of as many platform features as possible for an integrated experience.
Let's face it, I could duct tape some web servers in front of a mainframe, serialize data in an abstraction layer in and out of that mainframe, expose a few web services in that abstraction layer and call it my service oriented architecture. And indeed that may be an iterative step and an interoperable one to realizing the full value of the FUTURE of a financial architecture and business application, but it isn't even close to the end game. With that approach you are still maintaining an inflexible legacy environment and any innovation and flexibility would have to occur in that abstraction layer, sort of defeating the purpose of the "abstraction" layer. And as anyone knows, a fleet can only travel as fast as the slowest ship, and that mainframe is weighing your architecture down.
This layer of the Financial Value Chain is focused on the platform that runs the service oriented architecture. It's more than just an operating system and web servers. Although, the innovation that Microsoft provides as a base part of the OS delivers leagues of value "in the box" over its competitors. But on top of that is a rich tapestry of servers, runtimes and tools that assist in speeding components of the Financial Value Chain. And that doesn't even speak to the myriad of operational servers that support that platform like MOM, SMS or the like. I won't go into depth in this post on a product by product drilldown, but I wanted to throw a couple examples out there.
There are a couple of elements (not exhaustive) to consider as key in a financial architecture. Real time transaction capabilities and data access, batch environments, subscription methods and business process workflow. The first two can easily be facilitated by the SQL Server 2000/2005 environment. With a database that supports high performance data access (coupled with object and XML serialization) and services like DTS for batch loading and transformation you can accomplish the first two, and where needed can integrate that using BizTalk Server 2004 into a workflow process or use the adapter infrastructure to interoperate with other systems. Subscription to services is one type of subscription method, but others include subscription to data as a custom request that can be facilitated by SQL Notification Services or other business rules within a database architecture. In a Financial Architecture some common patterns for these models and how they leverage the Microsoft platform is what this layer is all about. Plain and simple, SOA is a great concept, but not all features of an application are found in the service bus, many are found in the plumbing level and platform support. They may extend to the service bus, but they are there nonetheless. This layer of the Financial Value Chain describes the features or artifacts that EVERY financial application should provide that will speed integration and/or value delivery.
I'll share a historical story in relation to all of this. I remember when BizTalk Server 2000 shipped and how excited I was. I saw what it was trying to do, and loved the concept. Sure, version 1 with the caveats, but the concept and approach was sound. But I watched even inside Microsoft as technologist after technologist would post inquiries to our internal BizTalk Server newsgroups saying things like "couldn't I just do x, y, or z easier using a C# foo?". And perhaps that was true for x through z....but what about a through w and all other permutations. Slowly people bagan to understand that platform servers, like BizTalk, and architecture take common infrastructure and application pain away by making it a platform component standard and add value to it at that level, and allow architects to deliver business value on top of that platform. That is the layer that is covered in this part of the Financial Value Chain.
...stay tuned for the excitement of Part 5