Leapfrog Makes a Flying Leap Onto the SOA Pad

Leapfrog Makes a Flying Leap Onto the SOA Pad

Some development teams are building a service-oriented architecture the old fashioned way: fast. Leapfrog Enterprises director of Systems Infrastructure Eugene Ciurana describes seat-of-the-pants SOA design in a virtual environment.

Cue the Western music, because the coding cowboy hasn't ridden off into the sunset just yet. And as this case study demonstrates, perhaps we should make sure he doesn't.

In fact, despite all the industry big-think about how SOA requires strong governance, months of front-end BPA and modeling, baked-in standards ( WS* this-and-that), ESBs and registries or repositories and mile-high SOA-savvy integrated vendor stacks, some development teams are building a SOA the old fashioned way: fast.

And it's working. That's the case at Leapfrog, one of the world's most successful makers of educational electronic toys. The company is nearing the end of an ambitious effort to make its consumer product lineup Web-savvy.

When Leapfrog's new devices connect to the Internet, they are transformed from toys to solutions: the front-end of a sophisticated SOA that integrates embedded devices, legacy systems, e-commerce, and a bevy of reusable services that power features, functionality and ultimately, sales.

But you won't find a bunch of business analysts and programmers sitting in a room, mapping out requirements and design. In fact, you won't even find a room. The system is being built virtually, using what could be called a modified Agile development method. The developers are scattered around the globe, communicating with e-mail, Microsoft Word documents, and Internet relay chat (IRC).

The programmers can use any tools, techniques, or technologies they are comfortable with, as long as the resulting components meet spec. And the team leader, who you'll meet here, is maximizing productivity and quality by hiring consultants who are key players within the open-source community; the people responsible for developing the open-source platforms being used.

Can you build in 18 months what some organizations can only design in 18 months? Eugene Ciurana, director of Systems Infrastructure for Leapfrog Enterprises, is proving you can-and for just 30 percent of what it would cost, he says, had Leapfrog used commercial products and a more structured approach.

Why don't you tell folks who you are, your title, the company you work for, and then we'll jump into the conversation?

Sure. My name is Eugene Ciurana. I am the director of Systems Infrastructure for Leapfrog Enterprises.

And tell us about Leapfrog. What's the company do?

Leapfrog is the largest independent producer of educational products in the US. We have a presence in 35 countries, and we're a public company. Most people who have kids between the ages of 4 and 10 probably have heard of us. Basically, our mission statement is "helping kids to learn how to read."

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