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Terms of Replacement

Legacy replacement can go quickly or slowly, but, given what vendors can offer today, the case for moving to newer technology is more compelling than ever.

Easing the Pain

The Hartford timed its initial efforts to replace its legacy applications to coincide with the release of its Dimensions auto product, for which it wanted to provide its agents with the ability to address the rating challenges of oft-changing personal auto insurance policies. The technology part of the initiative is called the "12-Block" program, referring to the extraction of the relevant legacy applications' functionality and isolating them as independent "engines" within a services-oriented architecture (SOA). "We're decoupling the pieces and wrapping them with standards," Busque explains. "We aren't building and hard-wiring proprietary interfaces; we are adopting standard MQ XML ACORD messaging between each piece."

Busque likens the architectural shift to a model much like that of a "componentized" entertainment center: One can easily exchange a VCR for a DVD player, despite the latter's relative technological sophistication. The strength of that model, according to Busque, "is not that the DVD is a new medium - it's the fact that you didn't have to replace your TV set, your hi-fi, etc.," he relates.

And the key word is "replace." As much as the initiative is extending legacy assets, The Hartford's approach with its 12-Block program is ultimately a legacy replacement strategy, using both homegrown and vendor technology (which The Hartford declines to specify). "Over time, we will shut down the existing legacy applications and replace them with new engines," Busque relates. "Doing this all at once would be like swallowing the ocean - you could try to do it, but the degree of failure likely would be unacceptable."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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