The SOA Solution
Valero needed a solution--one that would serve it well as it grew. To that end, it embraced the concept of service-oriented architecture, which promises to let an enterprise make its applications and computing resources available as "services"--components that can be flexibly reused and recombined. These components advertise themselves on the corporate network as services that other applications can discover and use. An order management system might advertise a lookup service that would be useful to both a customer service application and a profitability analysis application, for example. This contrasts with point-to-point integration approaches, in which each application seeking data from the order system requires its own interface to the order system.
With a more efficient means of exchanging information and speeding execution of business processes, Valero thought it could run its business more efficiently and cut operating costs.
But Valero was also looking ahead. The energy company believed if it did SOA right, it could move to a self-service model, where its business units could build their applications using IT-developed services.
"That's a transformational change," says Zesch. Since Valero's 2004 roll-out of five core services for accessing information from its master customer, materials, vendors, pricing and plants data, it has delivered 90 services, with 20 asynchronous scenarios (in which responses to service requests are not provided immeimmediately), all built on SAP's NetWeaver Application Server Development Environment.
More striking is the fact that the company has achieved 50 percent reusability of these services and believes it's on track to achieve 70 percent to 80 percent reusability. Most companies using SOA based on enterprise Web services are demonstrating reuse in excess of about 30 percent, according to Forrester analyst Larry Fulton, clearly putting Valero's 50 percent at the high end. But getting there hasn't been easy--this is not a one-year or even a five-year project, but an ongoing effort that factors into every system implementation and upgrade at Valero.
Currently, some 5,000 customers and 22,000 employees are using these services through composite applications, which are built by combining multiple services.