Services Boost Platforms

Accenture and Confluent will roll out services-oriented development architectures that can alter the way apps are developed and deployed.

The race is on to deliver services-oriented architectures, and two vendors are taking contrasting approaches to providing such capabilities and empowering developers.

Accenture Inc., in New York, this week plans to announce a Web services platform called Accenture Web Services Platform, built with Avanade Inc. The approach is to deliver a predeveloped and pretested software environment based on Web services standards that represent a toolbox of reusable components and services spanning the software development life cycle.

Touted as an entry point for SOAs, Accenture Web Services Platform is delivered as a hosted development environment but can be deployed inside firewalls. Officials said it is based on Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio .Net; companion technology from companies such as Mercury Interactive Corp. and Merant Inc.; and key Web services standards, including Simple Object Access Protocol, Web Services Description Language, and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration.

An SOA enables systems to interact with one another as series of independent services that share business information based on Web services standards.

"If Web services are the trees, then SOAs are the forest," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, a Cambridge, Mass., research company. "Why? Because Web services without any architectural change just represent a new protocol for doing what were already doing—connecting systems together in a point-to-point fashion. What SOAs represent is a change in the way we build, develop and deploy applications.

"Instead of thinking of disparate systems that are connected together using standards, we can build systems that are themselves exposed as standards-based services or components."

Andrew Brust, president of New York-based Progressive Systems Consulting Inc., said .Net is at the core of the movement. ".Net was designed from the ground to be an exemplary platform for developing and hosting software engineered around [SOAs]," Brust said.

Michael Condon, a partner in Accentures communications and high-technology practice, said the company will deliver a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) of its Web services platform in the next 12 to 18 months.

Meanwhile, Confluent Software Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., is announcing the integration of its Web services management software with BEA Systems Inc.s J2EE-based BEA WebLogic Workshop application development environment.

The integration of Confluent Core Web Services Integration and Management Platform with WebLogic Workshop, in a new Confluent product known as Confluent Core for BEA, helps enterprises deploy an SOA where shared operational policies such as security can be consistently enforced, said Rajiv Gupta, CEO of Confluent. The new product helps Java application developers deliver better-managed Web services, faster and cheaper, Gupta said.

"When you think of [an SOA], what comes to mind is that you want the Web services themselves to worry about the business logic and how they can invoke and be invoked by other services," Gupta said. "You dont want them to have to deal with operational issues like security and manageability."

By integrating Core into WebLogic Workshop, Confluent and BEA, of San Jose, Calif., enable developers "to build the management and security required for Web services right into an application at the early-development phase of its life cycle," Gupta said. "This is critical in [an SOA]."

Although Confluent has existing relationships with Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc., Gupta said he sought a deal with BEA because "BEA is a dominant force in the application server platform. And in the Java space, BEA, along with IBM, are the two dominant players. With BEA, we liked everything we saw. We liked Workshop, and we thought we could extend it. With BEA, what well be announcing is very tight integration with their platform."

Confluent Core for BEA will be delivered as a set of controls and handlers that plug in to BEA Workshop, Gupta said. In addition, BEA will co-sell and jointly market the technology, he said.