Project team members opted for a distributed network because they wanted a system that could efficiently handle compute-intensive applications, such as those that build optimization models for locomotives and railcars, says Tennison. "We wanted to be able to throw a lot of horsepower at these problems and not be constrained by a big, monolithic engine," he says. The team ultimately decided to run the system on Linux.
For Martin Malley and members of the 220-person NetControl project team, one of the biggest challenges has been determining which features of the old system have to be preserved -- and do that without the aid of documentation on how various business processes in that system have evolved, says Malley.
To do that, the team is applying an agile model where applications are designed three to six months ahead of the software development schedule, says Malley. Application delivery teams work in one-month shifts, and new releases are generated each quarter.
That approach tends to work well for service-oriented architecture initiatives, says Randy Heffner, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. With an SOA-type framework, says Heffner, "there are opportunities to automate things and rethink how certain processes work."