Case Study: Equifax


equifax Check out the case study below to learn how leading US credit reporting entity Equifax® built an advanced SOAP interface for their identity verification and authentication Web service.

Overview

Equifax is a leading credit reporting entity and provider of analytical and decision support tools. Their real-time authentication system, eIDverifier, offers government and businesses personalized online security measures that help protect them against fraud and comply with federal legislation. The eIDverifier process is used within e-commerce and other online applications to authenticate users’ identities based on their answers to personalized questions drawn from Equifax’s extensive data stores. The authentication process consists of five steps:

  1. Integrity Check – eIDverifier standardizes and screens applicant-provided information to test for data inconsistencies and irregularities.
  2. Pattern Recognition – A pattern recognition algorithm is conducted on each transaction. For example, a velocity parameter determines the number of times an applicant has applied for authentication in a specific time frame.
  3. Identity Validation – To confirm an identity’s legitimacy, eIDverifier uses a “waterfall” approach in gathering validation information from multiple data sources. This means that if the identity cannot be validated with the first data source, eIDverifier will proceed to the next data source until the identity is validated.
  4. Interactive Query – eIDverifier presents multiple-choice questions to the applicant based upon “shared secret” information that should only be known to the applicant and Equifax. The question sets are customizable to meet individual risk thresholds.
  5. Decision Logic / Output Assessment – There are two output components to eIDverifier – an assessment score and reason codes. The assessment score indicates the likelihood of an applicant presenting fraudulent information, while reason codes provide important details on questionable information and highlight any discrepancies between the consumer’s application information and Equifax data sources.

eIDverifier relies on the SOAP protocol to send messages defining these interactions back and forth between the client interface and the Equifax servers. Third party institutions license the eIDverifier SOAP interface for use within their online application processes, enabling them to integrate its functionality and access information contained in Equifax’s databases.Equifax uses the XMLSpy XML Schema editor to graphically design the XSDs that serve as the foundation for their SOAP interface.

The Challenge

Equifax needed a sophisticated tool for designing the XML Schemas that would define the data types for their Web service, as well as a mechanism for creating the WSDL documents that would describe the interface as a whole. As a Java shop, Equifax needed a solution that would be compatible with their other development tools, and that would work seamlessly with the Eclipse IDE. Though there are plenty of Java tools available that have the capacity for XML Schema development, XMLSpy presented the most attractive option for schema design because of its comprehensive graphical design and editing options.The Equifax development team took a further step to simplify their Web services creation, using XML Beans and the Codehaus XFire/CXF Java SOAP framework to auto-generate WSDL from their XML Schemas.

The Solution

eIDverifier relies on a variety of different technologies to bring identity verification and authentication to its clients. XMLSpy provides the following benefits:XML Schema

XML Schema is used to express the structure of the data, as well as the individual elements and attributes that it is comprised of. Because a large portion of the data relies on end-user input in the form of address, phone number, driver’s license number, etc., it is vital that this information is in a format that can be digested by the system.Using XMLSpy’s graphical XML Schema editor, the Equifax development team was able to easily visualize and maintain the structure of their XML Schema. A portion of the schema that was created appears below:

SOAP interface

This data type definition provides the syntax, and dictates the structure, for the data that is transmitted by the eIDverifier Web service.

XMLSpy’s unique graphical XML Schema editor allowed the Equifax development team to create and maintain a complex schema definition without writing any code manually. They were also able to automatically generate human-readable documentation that can be used to present the architecture for review at any time in the development process, and that describes each element and attribute in detail.SOAP interface

WSDL

The processes executed by eIDverifier are described by a WSDL document that incorporates the XML Schema to provide information about data types, functions, and other interface details to the client – defining and dictating the actions taken by the client application to send and retrieve information between the end-user and the Equifax servers. The Equifax team chose to autogenerate a WSDL document using the Codehaus XFire/CXF framework. The XML Schema was used as the basis for an XMLBeans implementation, which was then compiled as a Java service class. Once the eIDverifier service was exposed, XFire automatically generated a WSDL – the WSDL is shown below in the XMLSpy graphical WSDL editor.

SOAP interfaceThis WSDL serves as the basis for the eIDverifier application, defining the ports and messages that make up the communication infrastructure of the Web service.

The Results

The eIDverifier SOAP interface allows external applications to access Equifax’s backend data stores, exposing it as a Web service and enabling them to retrieve secure information without jeopardizing the integrity of the Equifax mainframe. Utilizing WSDL and SOAP, and surrounded by Java architecture, eIDverifier is able to confirm user identity by returning a set of multiple choice questions based on the secure data maintained by Equifax.SOAP interfaceXMLSpy enabled the Equifax team to quickly and easily create a graphical schema representation and the matching documentation to serve as the basis for the Web service. It also allowed the development team to focus on their Java code, rather than the intricacies of XML Schema and WSDL design. The Altova MissionKit provides numerous tools for advanced Web services development, from the graphical XML Schema and WSDL editing discussed here, to SOAP debugging, and even graphical Web services generation and data mapping. Download a free trial to check it out for yourself.

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Editing Database Views and Stored Procedures


“Ninety percent of the time you just need to make a simple modification,” the Redmond Magazine reviewer wrote in the introduction to the recent review that selected DatabaseSpy as Redmond Roundup Champion among database tools. DatabaseSpy lets you make those quick updates with its intuitive interface that is consistent across multiple database types. For the other ten percent of the time, DatabaseSpy can also be an appropriate tool for more advanced database maintenance tasks, such as creating or altering database views and stored procedures. Let’s take a look . . . The DatabaseSpy 2008 Online Browser lets you explore views and procedures by navigating and expanding them the same way you can explore tables in the hierarchical display of the Online Browser helper window. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Edit Database Views

When you select an existing database view in the Online Browser window, the right-click context menu offers options to generate new statements in the SQL Editor that can quickly get you started editing a view, or to assist creating a new one. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures For instance, when you generate a create statement for an existing view, DatabaseSpy displays the formatted and color-coded view definition for immediate access in a new SQL Editor window. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Create a New Database View

You can modify the statement any way you like in the SQL Editor. As an example, let’s assume you’ve been assigned to create a company phone directory view. All the data you need is already contained in the employees view – plus a lot more! You can start by saving a copy of the employee view with a new name. Simply edit the database view name, execute your statement, and the new database view is created. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures As you refresh the database connection in the Online Browser window, the new view is immediately visible and available for access. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Alter a Database View

You can choose the Alter selection from the right-click context menu to edit any database view, including the new phone directory view. You can revise the existing view to make the changes you want, taking advantage of all the DatabaseSpy SQL Editor functionality, including color coding, automatic formatting, and even auto-completion. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures When your edits are complete, the SQL Editor Execute button runs the alter statement and modifies the view in the database. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures To make access to the new phone directory view even easier for the HR department, you can save a select statement for the view in a SQL file and add it to the HR manager’s DatabaseSpy Project menu. Altova DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Use SQL Refactoring to Create a View

If you don’t have an existing view to use as a template, DatabaseSpy 2008 offers a convenient alternative. The SQL Refactoring menu includes an option to convert any select query to a create view statement. The default view name is even highlighted so you can immediately assign a more relevant name. Altova DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures
DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Edit Stored Procedures

The DatabaseSpy 2008 Online Browser also lets you edit stored procedures in your database. You can highlight any stored procedure, then can expand your selection to explore it. Or, use the right-click context menu to generate SQL statements for operations available to act on stored procedures. Altova DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures
You can edit stored procedures in the DatabaseSpy SQL Editor, and execute your revised statements using the same techniques described above for database views. DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Execute Stored Procedures

The Execute option in the DatabaseSpy 2008 context menu for stored procedures builds a time-saving template for an execution script for the stored procedure. Altova DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures
For procedures that require parameters, all you have to do is set the parameter values, then it’s just one click to execute the stored procedure and view the results. Altova DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures

Edit User-defined Functions

DatabaseSpy 2008 even lets you navigate and edit user-defined functions stored in your database, starting from the same convenient right-click context menu in the Online Browser. Altova DatabaseSpy edit views and stored procedures Try this for yourself with a free trial of Altova DatabaseSpy.

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Case Study: Wrycan, Fitz & Floyd, MarketLive


wrycan Fitz and Floyd is a leader in design and manufacture of hand painted ceramic gift ware. In 2007, they approached Wrycan, an Altova partner focused on content-centric XML expertise and related software development, for help creating a solution that would allow Fitz and Floyd to interface their existing CRM system to their new Web-based storefront application from MarketLive, the leader in e-commerce software solutions. Fitz and Floyd had already purchased a license for the Altova MissionKit software suite, so Wrycan was able to jump right in and start mapping data from Fitz and Floyd’s Oracle database to MarketLive’s proprietary schema using Altova MapForce. Wrycan assigned the project to a Principal Consultant, who had plenty of previous experience with XML technologies (including XSLT and XML Schema) as well as with large-scale databases, but who had never before used MapForce, Altova’s data conversion, transformation, and integration tool.

The Challenge

Fitz and Floyd required a solution that would automatically synchronize data from their Oracle database to MarketLive’s storefront application. It needed to perform the following functions: inventory updates, product updates, and order status updates. This way, when a customer ordered a Fitz and Floyd product via the MarketLive interface, they would be getting real-time information about the company’s inventory. The solution needed to be simple to use, easy to maintain, cost effective, and completed on time, so they could put their new storefront into production promptly. Fitz and Floyd’s existing data was housed in an Oracle 8.0.5 database and was organized according to internal requirements. In order to transform their data into a format that would work with MarketLive’s storefront application, Fitz and Floyd’s data needed to be mapped to MarketLive’s XML Schema. In addition, there needed to be a system in place to track and log any transaction errors that occurred.

The Solution

Because of MapForce’s ease-of-use, the Principal Consultant was able to get started using its intuitive features right away. Wrycan used MapForce to map the transformation from Fitz and Floyd’s Oracle database to the XML Schema definition (XSD) instance provided by MarketLive. Using the database as the source component and the XSD as the target, the following mapping was produced: MapForce mapping transparent In order to map to some XML Schema entities that were not explicitly defined in the original MarketLive schema, Wrycan used Altova XMLSpy’s graphical XML Schema editor to fill in the gaps, adding attributes to the schema that had not previously existed and thus ensuring that all necessary Fitz and Floyd data would be mapped to the MarketLive Web interface. An example of the schema modifications is shown below: XML Schema modifications Wrycan used MapForce’s unique code generation capabilities to automatically produce a Java applet that was used to update Fitz and Floyd’s product, inventory, shipping, and order status information programmatically. This specialized applet was then packaged along with Wrycan’s proprietary Transaction Manager. MapForce made it very easy to update and redeploy the data mapping requirements as they changed throughout the project. Because of MapForce’s ease of use and built-in code-generation capabilities, less technical users can also update the data mapping when there are changes.

Simple Web-based Transaction Manager

Utilizing open source Java technologies such as Apache Tomcat and Quartz Enterprise Job Scheduler, Wrycan was able to create a simple transaction manager that allowed the transactions handled by the MapForce-generated, Java-based data integration applet to be scheduled, processed, and logged. The Transaction Manager is a custom software application made specifically for Fitz and Floyd by Wrycan, but built in such a way that it can be reused for future clients. It consists of several components:

  • User interface – allows the integration of MapForce-generated Java code
  • FTP interface – adds the ability for files to be downloaded for transformation from Oracle database format to the eCommerce platform XML format or vice versa
  • Scheduler – allows the automation of the data migration
  • Reporter – stores transaction results in XML files accessible in the user interface and also has the ability send emails in case of exceptions

The Transaction Manager’s user interface is the point of contact for Fitz and Floyd to control and schedule any data transformations. Because Wrycan wanted to be able to reuse the Transaction Manager, they chose to generate the MapForce code in Java, a platform-independent programming language. (MapForce can also generate application source code in C# and C++.) This code is an integral part of the Transaction Manager, as it dictates the data mapping process, allowing Fitz and Floyd’s internal information to be accessed via the MarketLive interface. The FTP interface is a simple way to manage the transfer and delivery of files from within the Transaction Manager once the MapForce-generated Java applet has transformed the data according to the MarketLive schema. A built-in batch scheduler allows Fitz and Floyd to automate the data migration operations by content type (i.e. order, inventory, product, etc.). Batch jobs The reporting component allows the result of each transaction to be logged in XML. Because of this, if any transaction errors occurred, Wrycan was able to use Altova XMLSpy to analyze and debug the issues.

The Results

Fitz and Floyd now has an easy to use data integration layer that is extensible by adding new MapForce transformations, and they can easily adjust their current transactions. Any updates made to the Fitz and Floyd Oracle database are automatically transferred to the MarketLive application in a format that it can readily understand. Log Details Because the Transaction Manager application is based on platform-independent Java code (generated by MapForce), Wrycan also has a reusable application that can be used as an asset by any online retail company. Wrycan is now able to approach potential clients with a proven data integration layer product that provides job scheduling, email notification, and FTP integration and can utilize any database or schema output via a custom Altova MapForce transformation. When speaking about this project, Dan Ochs, the principal consultant at Wrycan involved with the Fitz and Floyd application stated “MapForce has proven to be an easy-to-use, effective tool for making the data integration and mapping process much easier and faster to implement.” This and many other customer case studies involving Altova solutions are available in the Altova library.

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Redmond Roundup: Tooling Around in Your Database


RedmondMag.com just published a great article by Peter Varhol, a principal at Technology Strategy Research LLC, an industry analysis and consulting firm. This “Redmond Roundup” discusses common database management tasks and reviews some of the tools that are popular in that space:

Sometimes you don’t need a full-fledged database-management environment. Maybe you just need to go in and add a field, change a table or write an ad hoc query. Certainly you can do all those things in the SQL Server administration tools, writing your own SQL at the command line. Unless you’re a SQL expert, though, that process can be lengthy and error-prone. Having a graphical tool that’s easy to learn and use — and one that you don’t have to use every day to remember how to perform simple actions — is much more productive. Simply point it at the database, click the mouse to tell the tool what to do and your database maintenance is done…

Varhol examines three leading database tools and concludes by awarding Altova’s very own DatabaseSpy Redmond Roundup Champion, noting, “DatabaseSpy is the best overall in terms of range of features.” Redmond Roundup Image source: http://redmondmag.com/features/article.asp?editorialsid=2530

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How to Recommend Improvements or New Features


The most valuable input the Altova team receives is from our customers and potential customers. This feedback shapes our future development plans for improving our tools and adding new features and functionality. We receive this feedback in multiple ways: by interacting with users at industry events, through comments on this blog, through customer case studies, and, most often, through Altova’s Online Support Center. You can use the Support Center to report a problem you’re having, get help with licensing questions, request new features, and more. The form will guide you to the right place to enter your request. As always, we look forward to hearing your feedback!

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