Bombardier’s SOA strategy takes flight

Montreal-based international aerospace and transportation company Bombardier is well along its path towards achieving an SOA-enabled system infrastructure, executives said Thursday.

“When we talk to the lines of business, we don’t start off with the discussion about SOA, “ Sean Terriah, manager of IT applications services at Bombardier, said in a conference call with media that provided an update on its service oriented architecture (SOA) project. “We see SOA as important for our IT group and it’s about our approach to developing new solutions…and the lines of business will just benefit from that approach.”

Bombardier’s journey towards SOA began as early as 2003 with a massive integration project starting with its backend systems, enabled by an integration broker tool called CrossWorlds.

“One of the things that we have seen as being important within our organization is to ensure that our ERP system has been implemented and that we integrated all of our core manufacturing systems together as one integrated system,” explained Terriah.

Bombardier uses SAP AG applications including its ERP system R/3, NetWeaver as well as its business warehouse and business intelligence technologies. The aerospace company also uses Lotus Notes for collaboration, EMC’s Documentum for content management and technology from Sun Microsystems, Juniper and CA for security services.

Integration through CrossWorlds enabled the creation of the Bombardier Manufacturing Information System, which entailed the integration of eight manufacturing systems resulting in 64 mission-critical real-time interfaces, explained the Bombardier executive.

A succeeding project, called Parts Logistics, was implemented to integrate with Bombardier’s logistics partners, including Caterpillar Logistics, UPS and Fedex, as well as with the U.S. Customs and the German Customs, resulting in 40 more real-time interfaces, said Terriah.

“Since 2003, Bombardier accomplished 100 mission-critical interfaces using 14 protocols, 10 messaging formats across internal and external systems and network topology,” he said.

In the middle of Bombardier’s integration eco-system is IBM’s WebSphere Interchange Server, serving as the enterprise portal enabling interoperability across various applications, Terriah said.

With an integrated IT infrastructure and an enterprise portal in place, Bombardier has successfully established the foundation components towards SOA, he said.

“Enterprises today are looking for ways to reduce cost while increasing flexibility. It’s really hard to increase flexibility when you have an IT architecture that looks like a spaghetti (dish) rather than a well-designed architecture,” said Michel Boudrias, service oriented architecture practice lead at IBM Canada.

When it comes to SOA, most of the questions companies ask are around where to begin, Boudrias said. And the best starting point is by integrating your applications, he added.

“(Integration) is the foundation; if you can start getting information out of your system then you’ll better serve your business,” the IBM executive said.

Bombardier’s Terriah said it is important that the IT organization has a clear understanding of what the reference architecture is going to be.

“Then when we finally have our reference architecture in place, we can go back to the business and say, ‘By the way this is what we have done. Now we’re ready to embark on delivering self-service capabilities to our customers, suppliers and employees,’” explained Terriah.

The journey continued for Bombardier.  This year it plans to put in place a Human Resources Employee Self-service portal project, redesign its corporate Web site, and extend its customer service capabilities.

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