Matrix sets course for services-oriented future with Sonic
Matrix, one of South Africa's three leading vehicle tracking specialists, has become the latest company to commit to the Sonic enterprise service bus (ESB) from Progress Software.
Sonic is the market's leading ESB, and is typically used to help deliver service-oriented architecture (SOA), and to integrate many disparate applications.
Matrix has bought Sonic for both of these purposes, says Quinton Pienaar, IT operations manager at Matrix.
Matrix has been in business for a decade and has more than 150 000 subscribers. It has a wide variety of legacy applications which cannot easily communicate or interoperate with each other. Matrix has had to hardcode integration between these applications, an approach which carries significant processing and resource overhead.
"In our business, time to market with new products is vital," says Pienaar. "We are constantly seeking a competitive edge, which prompted an application rewrite. As part of this decision, we chose to go the SOA route. This we expect to confer many benefits, including flexibility, agility and continued use of existing applications, which have been expensed. Our research persuaded us that we needed an ESB, and after a review of the market, Sonic was our choice as the ESB with the most features at the lowest price."
Matrix had acquired a wide variety of applications, each embedding domain expertise. "With so much invested in these applications, we wanted to continue using them," says Pienaar.
As a proof of concept, Matrix used its Web site (www.matrix.co.za) for subscribers to be able to determine the location of their vehicles. Behind the scenes, the Web site connects to five disparate back-end applications.
As an example, when an SMS is received via the MTN mobile network from a subscriber, it fires off a series of steps: the subscriber's details are confirmed against the debtors' application to ensure it is still a valid and current subscriber. Once this is confirmed, the SMS is routed to the appropriate agent for attention. Matrix has many private and fleet clients, and the SMS could be a routine report, or related to vehicle theft. The entire process is routed through Sonic, in mere seconds. Because Sonic is at heart a message queuing application, each transaction is guaranteed to complete successfully.
With the proof of concept completed, Pienaar is to head a team integrating Matrix's existing applications into the ESB. This project is expected to last for two years, after which Matrix aims to move to orchestration of services, in terms of which applications can be developed and modified on the fly.
Already, Pienaar anticipates a number of benefits from the implementation of Sonic:
* It will reduce the need for hardcoding of workflow in applications, as this can now be done within the bus.
* It will ultimately ease the job of the Matrix call centre, as agents will be able to see all applications and functionality in one screen.
* Investment protection, due to the reuse of amortised applications.
* Flexibility of choice of applications.
* Ease of integration of existing and future applications.
* Runtime service level agreement monitoring.
* It allows Matrix to focus on business requirements rather than on technology.
* It enforces architectural disciplines, including good governance and standards.
* It can scale to levels far beyond Matrix's requirements, giving the company the assurance it will never run out of headroom. And, because downtime is never an option, Matrix bought the continuous availability option, which guarantees 100% uptime.
"Ultimately, Sonic is about competitive advantage, helping us to get new products and services to market, ahead of the competition," concludes Pienaar.
"As Matrix has found, the delivery of SOA depends entirely on the deployment of an enterprise service bus such as Sonic," says Rick Parry, MD of Progress Software South Africa. "Matrix will enjoy return on investment for many years to come."