ABN Spins Off Neogration

EAI software developer to sell Dutch bank's integration adapter technology.

ABN Amro Holdings N.V. found off-the-shelf messaging middleware-based software integration too expensive and time-consuming, so it developed its own.

The international banking company built its own integration adapter technology to help fold nearly a dozen acquisitions into its IT organization.

This week, the company, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands, will spin off Neogration Inc., a software development business that will sell those adapters to financial institutions and other companies that need to quickly connect data stored in legacy and enterprise applications.

Neogrations WOLF, or Web Objects for Legacy Functions, technology includes an adapter layer, which uses Java Naming and Directory Interface to provide the tools development interface. Unified Modeling Language and XML Metadata Interchange define data and services, which are converted into Simple Object Access Protocol for transmission across transports, such as HTTP.

The adapters can be managed with standard management tools that use SNMP, Java Management Extensions or Remote Method Invocation. A top layer in the WOLF stack lets programmers add new features without changing the underlying code.

WOLF is quicker than other integration technologies, officials said, because the ABN team tried to focus on business services, so developers would not have to program transport or messaging formats.

"With a lot of other middleware, a programmer has to learn three things to be useful: how to transport messages, format messages and business logic," said Bill Dyla, chief architect at ABN. "With WOLF, you dont have to learn transport or message formatting; you need to develop a business logic."

IT departments can use WOLF to integrate legacy and other disparate systems in less time than it takes to implement a large-scale EAI (enterprise application integration) project, officials said.

For example, ABN used WOLF to integrate its systems with those of Michigan National Bank last year. Previously, it had taken three to five days to assimilate a consumer loan payoff process; with WOLF, it took one day.

"We will not say we have a silver bullet—there is some heavy lifting and coding," said Mike Qualley, president and CEO of Neogration, in Chicago. "We focus on making that connection efficient and on making sure you dont have to re-create the wheel."

While the simplified approach to integration appeals to some in the industry, Neogration may have a difficult time convincing potential buyers that its technology is enterprise-ready.

An IT executive at a major U.S. bank who requested anonymity said that he was considering IBM for his integration projects because it is an established developer. "We would consider another financial institutions offering and compare what they have to IBM, but I would probably go for something thats been stable," he said.

Although ABN may understand a banks business better than a free-standing EAI company, using technology from a banking competitor, even if it were a subsidiary, could make some in his bank uncomfortable, the IT executive said. Others agreed.

"[Neogration] might understand the technology, but they might not be able to sell to other financial institutions. They are going to have to sell into their own organization or into another industry," said Kimberly Knickle, an analyst at Boston-based AMR Research Inc. "[With] so many of those [financial] companies, I think they would have a huge problem with that."