BACKGROUND: The Euroclear System (EOC ­ Euroclear Operations Centre) is the world's largest settlement system for internationally traded securities, covering more than 100,000 different types. Its 2,400 clients are sophisticated market professionals such as broker/dealers, commercial and central banks, investment managers, custodians and supranationals. Morgan Guaranty operates the system, which handles around 60,000 transactions every day with a total daily average value of approximately $200 billion.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft NT Server 4.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Over the last few years, EOC has been engaged in a very large system reengineering project. The development effort has generated a lot of information managed across a variety of databases and applications ­ source code on Maestro's configuration management system, problem tracking in Lotus Notes applications, test scenarios in SQL Server, documents on the intranet and more. It soon became apparent that piecing together dispersed information using multiple client applications was becoming increasingly difficult for analysts, developers and maintainers of the system. EOC needed a nonintrusive, low-overhead solution that would provide user- friendly, integrated, real-time access to application information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: EOC used InfoObject, a Java-based portal server from Noonetics Division of Home Information Services, Inc., to build a Web application that creates an integration layer between heterogeneous data sources and Web browsers. In other words, InfoObject presents otherwise dispersed information as a seamless, easy-to-navigate Web site. EOC is also developing a second InfoObject application to create a Web-integrated view of Euroclear System's operational data and is planning a third to address fine grain integration of software documentation within the code itself. InfoObject can generate both HTML and XML content. EOC anticipates using InfoObject as an XML integrator, allowing access to various databases as if they were an integrated XML source. We also plan to use InfoObject's cross-integration capabilities so that all three applications can leverage one another.

STRENGTHS: InfoObject applications are defined as object oriented information models that are edited using an integrated tool. A model holds a taxonomy of information objects, the agents that recover these objects from dispersed data and the templates used for content generation. The approach makes it easy to extend an application, growing its scope, creating new views on information or integrating additional data sources. Additional data sources can be an open-ended variety of sources, standard as well as proprietary. InfoObject is a low-impact solution: the integrated data sources, which are accessed in read-only mode, need not be modified or cleansed because InfoObject does data scrubbing on the fly. As the data is accessed from the sources on demand, there is no need for an additional repository (with data loading procedures). Hence, the application provides up-to-date information with little management and operational cost. In order to deliver optimal performance, InfoObject uses configurable caching for fast response times and to reduce access load on the data sources.

WEAKNESSES: InfoObject is a young product. Noonetics would do well to add a number of features in future releases such as an interactive model debugger, stronger application management capabilities and better support for managing change impacts in models.

SELECTION CRITERIA: EOC needed a low-impact, low-overhead solution that could integrate a customized repository, namely the Maestro configuration management system, with a variety of other sources. We believe that the combination of object oriented modeling, on-demand Web integration and open- ended source access is unique to InfoObject.

DELIVERABLES: EOC uses InfoObject to build dynamic Web sites that get their content on the fly from integrating heterogeneous data sources.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Noonetics developed EOC's first InfoObject application and provides ongoing product support. They are very responsive, even proactive, in addressing EOC's needs. The best part of working with Noonetics is their total commitment to project success.

DOCUMENTATION: InfoObject is delivered as an InstallShield application and is relatively easy to install. The main difficulty lies in making sure that the server InfoObject runs on is properly configured with the appropriate middleware drivers. The documentation is a work in progress. The existing material is well written and provides a fairly good introduction to the product. However, online help, a tutorial and a reference manual are under construction.

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