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Bluedog Rescues the FTC - eWeek Magazine 103006

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was suffering from a botched upgrade of the Identity Theft and Do Not Call systems. Bluedog's crack team of technologists implemented a service oriented architecture to modernize the legacy big data systems, as well as provide links to the CRM in call centers, local and federal law enforcement, and build a conduit for sharing data via XML. All for a low cost, in record time, and with Java-based WebObjects technology from Apple.

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Bluedog Rescues the FTC - eWeek Magazine 103006

  1. 1. CASESTUDY 12 eWEEK STRATEGIC PARTNER esp.eweek.com T he federal trade commission’s long list of responsibilities includes handling consumer fraud com- plaints, the National Do Not Call Registry for marketers and iden- tity theft cases. Until recently, the commission’s IT systems handled these different types of complaints separately without communicating with one another. But that all changed when Bluedog, a systems integrator and software developer based in Dublin, Ireland, helped bring to fruition an SOA (service- oriented architecture) that modernized the FTC’s CIS(consumerinformationsystem).The$1.2mil- lionupgrade involvedbringingopenstandardsand a Web-based architecture to the core system. OCTOBER 2006 INTEGRATOR AND SOFTWARE DEVELOPER BLUEDOG HELPS THE FTC STREAMLINE ITS IT SYSTEMS By Lynn Haber With a reputation as a problem solver, Bluedog got involved in the project after it was already under way. “We were called in to jump-start the SOA project that had been in the hands of another systems integrator but was going poorly,” said Tom Termini, managing director at Bluedog’s U.S. subsidiary, in Silver Spring, Md. “We got the remainder of the budget and 90 percent of the work.” The project, however, was no walk in the park, Termini conceded. The budget was adequate, but there were serious time constraints and many disparate pieces of technology to link together. Bluedog dedicated most of its U.S.-based staff to make it all work, Termini said. The engagement began [CONTINUED ON PAGE 14] JUDGUITTEAU Bluedog tothe rescue
  2. 2. in August 2005 and concluded in June 2006 with the deployment of a dozen Web services and six management portlets, according to Termini. Before the SOA upgrade, the CIS was an Oracle client/server application that had been in place for at least 10 years. An SOA employs functions, or services, that interact with one another when called on to execute certain processes. Each service has an interface, and each interaction is independent. The client/server application the FTC was using no longer could handle the commission’s growing workload as the number of users accessing it grew rapidly. By migrating to an SOA environment, the FTC gained scalability to deploy more users at its call centers or on the Web, as well as easier data management, the ability to make system access available to other agencies and future cost savings via the use of reusable standards-based components. “We looked at moving from a client/server-based architecture to SOA and worked with a couple of inte- grators to figure out what would work best for us,” said FTC CIO Stephen Warren in Washington. “The first con- tractor helped us figure out where we should go and how to restructure our architec- ture going forward. Bluedog put the pieces together and showed us that SOA technol- ogy worked.” Getting with the times the ftc was created in 1914 to prevent unfair methods of competition in com- merce. The government agency has a long tradition of maintaining a competitive marketplace for both consumers and busi- nesses. Over the years, Congress passed additional laws giving the agency greater authority to police anti-competitive prac- tices. The FTC’s work is performed by the bureaus of Consumer Protection, Com- petition and Economics. That work is aided by the Office of General Counsel and seven regional offices. A core enterprise application within the FTC, the CIS drives the business processes for the group that handles con- sumer fraud complaints, the National Do Not Call Registry and the identity theft complaint process. Whether a consumer is registering a business or a fraud com- plaint, or law enforcement officers are querying the system, all inquiries go back to the CIS. However, the various systems weren’t tied together. The thinking behind crafting a new, SOA-based enterprise model was to accommodate more users and facilitate consumer access to the FTC’s com- plaint processes via the Web. Players at the FTC also knew it was time to update the commission’s technology, according to Termini. “The client/server architecture wasn’t supporting the number of users that needed to access the FTC services,” Ter- mini said. The FTC has 200 call center users and 300 internal FTC users to handle consumer fraud complaints, the National Do Not Call Registry and identity theft cases. The agency receives 3,000 to 5,000 complaints daily on the Web. Bluedog got its foot in the door at the FTC about two years ago while working on CASESTUDY another government project. “At the time, we were working on an enterprise portal project for the Department of Justice,” Termini said. “Back then, I had a brief meeting with the CIO at the FTC, who was concerned about how long their SOA project was taking.” It was after this meeting that what Termini calls a low-key strategy came in handy. Bluedog, he said, gets the word out quietly to CIOs that the company special- izes in problem solving, an approach that Termini said has proved effective. It certainly worked with the FTC. By the summer of 2005, Bluedog was engaged with the CIS upgrade. What Bluedog brought to the table was experi- ence providing Web-based solutions quickly and cost-effectively. In busi- ness since 1998, Bluedog has 12 full-time develop- ers in the United States and 20 employees at its headquarters in Dublin. The company builds J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) Web services, portlets and Web applications for government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and com- mercial businesses. Bluedog quickly outlined its approach to the FTC project: to promote a design based on a coherent platform from which to build composite applications. Within 30 days, or by the beginning of November 2005, Bluedog put together a proof of concept by building a labo- 14 eWEEK STRATEGIC PARTNER esp.eweek.com FTC FROM PAGE 12 OCTOBER 2006 The FTC’s systems that handle identity theft, consumer fraud complaints and the National Do Not Call Registry did not communicate. That changed once Bluedog updated the agency’s technology. Case data The problem A decade-old client/server application no longer could handle the rapidly growing number of users accessing the FTC’s CIS The solution The FTC decided to upgrade the system with an SOA The result The FTC gained scalability to deploy to more users, easier data management and the ability to enable other agencies to access the system Budget $1.2 million Duration 10 months, August 2005 to June 2006
  3. 3. CASESTUDY ratory production envi- ronment to demonstrate to the FTC how it would achieve its objective. In addition to emulating the Sun Microsystems Solaris equipment that was in use at the FTC, the integrator introduced Linux applica- tion services. “We learned a lot of things about SOA technol- ogy and what it brings to bear,” said Warren. Getting a green light to continue its work meant that Bluedog had to win over other IT contractors used by the FTC—inparticular,databaseadministrators who needed reassurance that moving to services-based architecture wasn’t going to cost them their jobs. “There was a lot of friendly conflict, but, at the end of the day, there weren’t any problems,” said Termini, adding that the DBAs were allowed to focus on what they did best, and Bluedog’s work was to focus on processes. The FTC also reacted positively to an SOA demonstration using the National Do Not Call Registry. The demo showed how telemarketers—who, up to that point, had to download the registry nightly to stay up-to-date on entries—could simply log on using the proposed new sys- tem, submit a telephone number query and get an answer in real time. The team then dove in with a pilot proj- ect. According to Bluedog, the team consisted of 11 people: eight of its employees and three FTC representatives. Making headway although bluedog rallied to meet the two milestones of the project—the infra- structure build-out, completed in February 2006, and the development of a dozen Web services, which were rolled out in 30-day increments—the company faced a number of challenges along the way. For starters, the FTC handed Blue- dog notes, high-level requirements and a small integrator who focuses only on the number of projects we can handle,” he said. For the FTC project, Bluedog committed about 80 percent of its U.S. staff. In addition, Termini said, the com- pany is highly specialized and tight-knit, with staff having worked together since 1998. By June 2006, Bluedog had completed its mission, introducing an SOA plug- and-play architecture combined with Unix and J2EE. Ease of component integration enabled the FTC to swap services and connect and use them easily. In addition, the SOA was scalable and redundant and made use of open standards. In the time since Bluedog completed its project, Warren said the FTC has taken what it learned from its first SOA project to make decisions on future IT needs. One of those decisions is based on the good results of the CIS project. “We asked ourselves where to go with SOA technically,” Warren said. The answer the FTC came up with, he added, is to buy SOA as a service rather than build it in-house. ´ Lynn Haber is a freelance writer in Norwell, Mass. She can be reached at lthaber@comcast.net. a bunch of infrastruc- ture products that had already been purchased for the project. The main products included Sonic Software’s Actional XML Security Gateway and ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), M2M Holdings’ Onyx Soft- ware, Ilog’s JRules, Apple Computer’s WebObjects and Plumtree’s Corporate Portal 5.0. At first, Bluedog wasn’t sure it was given the right set of tools to do its job. “We didn’t want to have to shoehorn these products to make the project work,” said Termini. But having had previous experience working with Sonic, Actional and Ilog, the integrator knew the solutions were enterprise-class and fit the bill for the FTC job. Another challenge was winning over internal users with the proof-of-concept demo. And, while Termini said the budget proved adequate, the project’s time frame was tight. “But that’s our advantage as Warren: The FTC is considering software as a service. Bluedog Headquarters Silver Spring, Md., and Dublin, Ireland Number of employees 12 full-time in the United States, 20 in Dublin Years in business 8 Yearly revenue $12.2 million in 2005; estimated $18 million in 2006 Web site bluedog.net esp.eweek.com eWEEK STRATEGIC PARTNER 15 OCTOBER 2006