Navy FCU To Distribute Apps Online To Branches

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Navy Federal's mainframe is getting a Java facelift as the $15-billion CU nears completion of the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) conversion training process.

In efforts to ease deployment methodologies at the 2.1 million-member CU, four applications will be pioneered as part of a system-wide conversion to the J2EE standard, according to John Charles Herzberg, manager, E-commerce branch.

"This is not bleeding edge," said Herzberg. "Like many financial institutions, we've waited and tested the water and found that this model is the direction to go in."

J2EE was chosen over other open architectures as the best ride on Navy FCU's IBM RS6000 and S/390 systems, Herzberg said. The model is no short-term solution-"we feel we will not be in jeopardy of having to jettison this architecture in the future," he said.

The primary advantage of the new architecture is standardization-old and new software can be easily updated or adopted in a browser-based environment without significant rework requirements. That means a lot to a credit union that develops and distributes applications across 93 branches worldwide.

"We're really looking at the zero deployment model," Herzberg explained. Currently, when new software is introduced, Navy FCU is "used to visiting all the desktops constantly. We're constantly buying new hardware."

J2EE technology is designed to allow users access to business software applications using Internet browsers, in contrast to older technologies that required installation of software on the desktop PC.

J2EE handles application behavior automatically, eliminating complex programming and integrating the diverse application models presented by disparate vendors, including Legacy Systems. Many companies now build products that comply with the J2EE model, for example IBM's WebSphere, a Web application server.

Herzberg added that the J2EE security model protects data for each new Navy FCU application, even across the Net.

The pioneer four applications (Legal Document Processing System, Medical Benefits System, Journal Voucher Update and Correspondence Automation by Mail) were chosen from about 200 based on how closely they fit the J2EE model, said Herzberg. The remaining applications will feed off the design and deployment of the first four. "As we progress down this pass we'll get progressively more complicated," he said.

The world's largest CU is not going alone the transition to J2EE. The CU has partnered with Arlington, Va.-based Dante Consulting, specializing in Web-enabling legacy environments using J2EE technology. As part of the contract, the IT consulting firm will help design and implement the J2EE architecture and security and mentor staff.

The conversion has so far been smooth, said Herzberg, in large part due to the development team, which includes Legacy, Visual Basic and Client/Server support groups. "The team in this process has been diverse, so there have been no glaring glitches."

Herzberg could not discuss conversion expenses, but assured good cost recovery from increased ease of deployment, fewer support calls, and lower hardware upgrade costs. "We have a high confidence level in the tools.

"The biggest bang for the buck is that we'll be able to pass some of this architecture on to our members," in the form of browser-based financial services, he concluded.

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