CORBA in Finance/Japan
Draft 1: 1 February 99
CORBA® in Finance
By Eric Leach, The Object Management Group's UK representative
Computer software celebrated its 50th birthday last year at The University of Manchester, UK where it was born on June 21, 1948. Ever since its beginnings, one of the great attractions of software has been that you can change it. However, changing software has proved over the years to be a time-consuming, expensive, unreliable and frustrating business. The billions of Yen being spent world-wide on changing software to handle Year 2000 dates is painful proof of this.
Innovations in software have come thick and fast over the years. Included amongst these are operating systems, high level languages, databases, transaction monitors and interactive computing. In the late 1960's Dahl and Nygaard in Norway invented object technology. At around the same time, Parnas introduced the concept of software components (known as design modularity). A crude description of what objects and components contribute to the process of changing software is that change is effected by removing an object/component and replacing it with a new one. Additionally new objects and components can be added to existing assemblies of objects or components. Both the object and component notions rely heavily on the idea of a unit of software, comprising both data and process, which hides implementation behind one or more unambiguous external interfaces. It is this notion of interfaces, and specifically standard interfaces, that CORBA is all about.
The Object Management Group®
In 1989, a not-for-profit organisation, calling itself the Object Management Group (OMG™) was established in the USA. The founding members of OMG ( were 3Com Corporation, American Airlines, Canon Inc., Data General, Hewlett-Packard, Phillips Telecommunications N.V., Sun Microsystems and Unisys Corporation.
OMG's mission was, and still is, the establishment of global standards to facilitate distributed application interoperability. The founding fathers were frustrated by the prevailing software development technologies, the inflexibility of existing software and the lack of software interoperability. They believed that the establishment of software interface standards, based on object technology, was the way forward.
OMG adopts technical specifications through a consensus process. OMG is becoming world famous for its technology adoption process. At the heart of the process is the Request For Proposal (RFP) procedure. RFP's are issued to which OMG vendor members can respond with specifications of running code. The act of responding to an RFP commits the vendor to implement and market a product based upon the finally adopted software specification.
OMG's standards brand is CORBA. CORBA stands for Common Object Request Broker Architecture. At the heart of CORBA is its Object Request Broker (ORB). The OMG ORB facilitates object interoperability by providing the means by which objects make and receive requests and responses. The mechanism used is that all objects interfaces are specified in OMG's Interface Definition Language (IDL). Automatic ORB to ORB interoperability is provided by the Internet Inter-Orb Protocol (IIOP), which was adopted by OMG at the end of 1994.
OMG is now a large software consortium with around 800 members. It currently has some 90 technology adoptions in progress. Its 5 times a year Technical Meetings attract between 400 and 700 people. Its growth over the last two years has been largely user oriented. Two thirds of all new OMG members over the last two and a half years have been end users.
The first 5 years of OMG's existence were devoted to creating the "plumbing" for an interoperability infrastructure, with the adoption of an architecture, an object request broker specification and basic operating services. These include lifecycle, naming, persistence, trader, transactions and security.
All OMG adopted standards are freely available in many formats on the Web ( OMG does not produce software. It adopts specifications of software which exists and is available. OMG specifications are implementation, platform and language independent. End-users, ISV's and system suppliers can write their own implementations of the CORBA/IIOP specifications. More and more, it's likely that they will adopt someone else's implementation. Organisations which have implemented the basic OMG ORB standard and sell products in the open market based upon it include BEA Systems (who acquired DEC's ObjectBroker), Expersoft, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, Inprise (formally Borland, who acquired Visigenic's VisiBroker), IONA Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Object Computing, Peer Logic (who market DAIS developed by ICL), Promia, Real Objects, SNI and TIBCO. Major vendor organisations who have adopted one of these CORBA implementations include Andersen Consulting, Hewlett-Packard, NEC, Netscape, Novell, Oracle, SAP, Silicon Graphics, Sun and Sybase. Microsoft is a full member of OMG, but has conspicuously not adopted the core CORBA/IIOP specification.
OMG CORBA Standards in Finance
In December 1994, driven by the vision of OMG management and Jack Hassall and John Eaton of Stanford Software International of Stockport UK, an OMG Financial Special Interest Group (SIG) was formed. This SIG became a fully fledged Task Force in March 1996.
The scope of the OMG's Financial Domain Task Force (CORBAfinancials Task Force) embraces financial services, insurance and accounting. These application areas are present in many organisations; including all forms of monetary transactions, payroll, billing and so forth. Monolithic and proprietary application systems with limited standards for data interchange and commercial software component integration are still the normal state of affairs. Suppliers and end-users in this market have a significant need for the interoperability and portability benefits provided by current and future OMG standards. The goals of the OMG CORBAfinancials Task Force are: to promote financial services and accounting software to use OMG standards; to provide an internationally recognised forum for industry focus on Financial Services and Accounting Facilities; to identify relevant standards, research and technologies in this area; to co-ordinate end-user requirements in the financial domain; to co-ordinate potential future specifications activities with other domain task forces; to involve all interested members of the OMG Financial Domain Task Force; to create a CORBAfinancials Architecture and Roadmap for the Financial Services Industry world-wide; to issue RFIs, RFPs and RFCs for CORBA based technology relevant to the Financial Services Industry; to evaluate RFI and RFP responses and subsequently recommend technology to be adopted by the OMG; and to assist and advise the OMG Liaison Sub-Committee of related standards organisations and consortia.
The first OMG standard to be adopted was Currency. The Currency specification includes basic business objects for currency, money and exchange rate, parsing and formatting, handling symbols and mnemonics. It handles major and minor parts of a currency; money arithmetic; and conversion from one currency to another (including triangulation). The OMG Currency specification is EURO compliant. It was adopted in July 1998, and is currently being implemented by a number of vendors, including Cyborg, IBM and SELECT Software.
Other financial standards in process include a General Ledger Facility, Party Management and Risk Management. The OMG General Ledger Facility defines the interface, and their semantics, that are required to enable interoperability between General Ledger systems and accounting applications, as well as other distributed objects and applications for accounting purposes. The RFP was issued in December 1997. An initial combined submission was submitted on July 3, 1998, and was revised and re-submitted on December 21, 1998. This submission will be voted on by the FDTF at OMG's Technical Meeting in Philadelphia, March 22-26, 1999. The General Ledger RFP revised combined submission is likely to have significance throughout OMG, because of its richness in utilising the ISO RM-ODP and OMG UML standards to describe an OMG Facility. ISO RM-ODP (ITU-T-REC.X.901 l ISO/IEC 10746) provides object-oriented frameworks for specifying open, flexible and distributed systems. UML 1.1 (Unified Modelling Language) is the OMG standard for an object-modelling notation.
The General Ledger Facility standards adoption is being supported by an EC ESPRIT funded project called COMPASS ( The technology adoption process is scheduled to be completed by mid-1999, with product instantiations by the end of 1999. The International Accounting Standards Committee, IASC ( recently joined OMG and the process of "mapping" IASC standards to OMG standards has begun. Other financial facilities in the FDTF's roadmap include Global Straight Through Processing, Investment Pool Management and Asset & Liability Management.
OMG members active in the Financial Domain Task Force include Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Economica, Macquarie Bank, Cyborg, Fujitsu, Promia, Real Objects, SSA, IBM, SINTEF and Stanford Software International.
In the OMG Electronic Commerce Task Force, three standards adoptions are in process. There is a revised joint submission for Electronic Payment, submitted by Oracle and Compaq. Inline Software and OSM have also submitted technology specifications for a Negotiation Facility. Both these effort should result in standards and products later in 1999. At the OMG Technical Meeting in Washington DC, USA in January, 1999, an RFP for Electronic Commerce Public Key Interface was issued.
OMG's Finance and Electronic Commerce Domain Task Forces will be meeting in Tokyo, 17-21 May this year. The hosts are Hitachi in co-operation with IPSJ. Non-members can attend as guests of OMG. Email - - for more details.
CORBA at work in Finance
The range of applications which have been deployed throughout the world using CORBA is very wide. As well as legacy integration, these applications include bank credit account management, credit exposure calculation, on-line Internet account access, full web-based on-line banking, global trading, risk management, telephone banking and customer relationship management.
An example of CORBA's application in finance is UBS Corporate and Institutional Finance. UBS has used CORBA to implement an innovative intranet application to track high-risk banking clients worldwide. The application uses an ORB and the OMG Security Service.
The application, known as Global High Risk Porfolio Management (GHRPM), is designed to help monitor the high-risk credit accounts of the clients of UBS' Corporate and Institutional Finance (CIF) business units. For the first time, GHRPM provides UBS/CIF bank managers around the world with concurrent access to a wealth of up-to-date information about each client's credit position, outstanding loans and affiliations with other clients (e.g. subsidiaries, joint ventures, etc.). Besides its value providing timely accurate information to some 500 CIF managers worldwide, GHRPM is also the first of a new breed of line-of-business applications at UBS designed to bring critical operational information to the desktop over the bank's worldwide intranet. Prior to GHRPM, the intranet was primarily used for "soft" corporate communications (manuals, directives, etc.) and for some demonstration applications. Therefore, the GHRPM team essentially pioneered the deployment of "real" applications over the UBS intranet.
Of the Japanese financial organisations, the most publicised CORBA implementation is the Hoodini project, which went live in 1998 at Nomura. The development was based in London, UK and cost UK pounds 40 million. It was a four year project and it involved rewriting every line of code in Nomura's global investment banking operations. Hoodini was developed using C++ and Java and is totally based on CORBA. Nomura estimate that had they not adopted the CORBA model, they would have had to write three times the amount of code. They also believe that their CORBA-based system puts them two years ahead of their competitors.
Hitachi and Nihon Unisys announced in January, 1999 that they will work together on creating electronic commerce software. The CORBA standard will underpin their joint offerings, which will include financial electronic settlement software. Hitachi aims to sell up to 120 billion Yen of electronic commerce software by 2002.
Other financial organisation who have implemented CORBA based applications include ABN Amro, Abbey National, Bank of America, Bank of Boston, Bank of China, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank Sarasin & Cie, Banque Paribas, Barclays Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Charles Schwab, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chemical Bank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, DG Bank, Dresdner Bank, First National Bank of Chicago, First Union Bank, Generale Bank, Goldsman Sachs, JP Morgan, Lazard Bros, Lehman Brothers, Macquarie Bank, Merrill Lynch, New York Stock Exchange, Orion, Royal Bank of Scotland, Salomon Brothers, Standard Chartered Bank, State Street Bank, Svenska Handelsbanken, The Industrial Bank of Japan, Tokai Bank, Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank, Wells Fargo and Worldbank. More details on CORBA case studies in finance can be found at -
Object Management Group, OMG, CORBA and UML are trademarks or registered trademarks of Object Management Group, Inc. in the US and other countries