SOAs Hit High Note for Recording Firm

EMI Group uses service-oriented architecture technology to link artists, partners and others, as well as reduce costs.

Service-oriented architectures may have a hit on their hands.

EMI Group PLC., the recording and label company encompassing divisions such as EMI Records, Capitol Records, Blue Note and Virgin Records, is implementing SOAs as part of its Web strategy to connect artists, managers, business partners, fan sites and direct consumers while reducing costs and seeking new revenue opportunities.

EMI officials said the companys SOA approach will help save money. It is estimated that the first phase of the application architecture project, which started in May, will eliminate about 30 percent of the companys manual data entry on Web sites. During the next two years, EMI expects net cost savings associated with consolidating Web sites from eight hosting facilities to one. In addition, the company expects a corresponding reduction in hosted hardware and administrative costs to keep systems patched and up-to-date.

Historically, each of EMIs labels had a dedicated team of new-media personnel who developed their own applications. Although their work might have replicated work done at sister labels, each label was in its own silo. Plus, each labels new-media team was forced to maintain core content such as artist biographies, discographies and tour information. This approach became increasingly complex and costly, and consolidation became a priority this year for EMIs central IT team to address, said Seth Brady, director of application services, corporate and Web development for EMI Music North America.

"Traditionally, the way EMI has been structured, each label has been responsible for maintaining a Web presence, setting up contractors, doing the site and anything in between," said Brady in Hollywood, Calif. "We ended up with eight different Web vendors and systems, each with a single Web server and single database model. The systems couldnt scale, and some of the vendors were going out of business."

EMIs senior management tasked the companys IT group with bringing "all this stuff into one place," Brady said.

However, to attack the problem, EMI had to approach it from two sides, the infrastructure side and the application side, he said. Addressing the problem from the infrastructure side would not be very difficult, Brady said. Yet, because "each label had homegrown apps, the application side was going to be a challenge," he said.

Brady explained that on the application side, "we needed more than a content management system. We thought we should be tied in to [an SOA]."

To that end, EMI contracted with Avanade Inc., of Seattle, the systems integration and consulting company created by Microsoft Corp. and Accenture Ltd., to help implement its SOA platform.

Avanade got straight to work on implementing the SOA plumbing and creating new Web services.

"Tours was a case in point," Brady said. "We might have three different sites with three different dates for tours. We needed to share things that we didnt control. So for tours we built a generic service called Events that gave information based on the type of event so that all types of events are fulfilled by a specific service."

Brady said EMI can now expose that event service to other sites that the company doesnt control, such as fan sites, and drive consumer traffic back to the artists and other sites. "So if we add e-commerce to the sites, we can do business," he said. In addition, the SOA implementation "enables us to do things like Stage Passes, where you could subscribe to a site for a period of time and be able to get information," he said.

"Wed be able to get information and aggregate it and push it to consumers on their cell phones. Because weve put in this [SOA], these are some of the things we can deliver," Brady said.

One area EMI is testing is the ability to pull artist news into EMIs content, as well as to send tour updates and other information to consumers via cell phones, Brady said. EMI has put into place and is testing the ability to distribute news and other information to 50,000 subscribers, which would not have been possible without an SOA in place, he said.

Avanade leveraged its ACA (Avanade Connected Architecture) for .Net, an application development framework that includes reusable assets, to create the SOA that is helping EMI achieve its business goals, said Tyson Hartman, .Net practice director and technology fellow at Avanade.

"Weve used ACA .Net to help speed SOA development through our services generation framework," Hartman said. "We can generate all the services plumbing, and you can go in as a business application developer and focus on the business logic."

ACA .Net is a suite of architectural tools including services, code, best practices and patterns built on top of the Microsoft .Net Framework to make SOA development easier to implement, Hartman said. The latest version adds the service generation framework and an aspect-oriented architecture, he said.

"The service generation framework does the code generation of the Web services plumbing so you can focus on the business logic," Hartman said.

Next page: How Avanade helped EMI.