Accenture exec raises concerns over SOA shortfall

It's not delivering to its potential, CTO says

SOA has had a shortfall thus far in what it has delivered versus what has been promised, an Accenture official said during a recent event at BEA Systems headquarters in California.

Speaking late last month at the opening of the Accenture Innovation Centre for BEA, Accenture CTO Donald Rippert said SOA has been stuck in the second phase of what he described as a four-phase progression. Implementers have able to create web services from legacy applications but not implement a process model, he said.

"There a great deal of promise in SOA," Rippert said, noting that SOA has had many definitions. But thus far this promise has not been realised, he noted.

He described the four phases of SOA implementation, which begins at using XML as an interface, then implementing legacy systems as web services, and then using an ESB to connect web services and use composite processes. The fourth phase involves using BPEL (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services) in which a business application is revised by making changes to the process model rather than the code.

But SOA, for the most part, is not enabling this yet, said Rippert.

"Maybe someday, but not today; I don't see it today," he said.

Additionally, Rippert said CIOs tell him they need to work better with the business side of the house. A wide gulf exists in which neither the business persons nor CIOs can leverage processes for inclusion in a sufficient library of services fundamental for reuse in an SOA.

"That's what Accenture and BEA need to do is bridge that gulf," said Rippert. This, he said, must be done in the next 18 months, or SOA risks becoming like the Hula Hoop, a faddish toy from the 1950s.

The joint Accenture-BEA facility is at BEA headquarters and will be focused on developing solutions including SOA. David Gai, BEA's executive vice president of world services, said BEA is working with Accenture to help proliferate BEA-based solutions in the marketplace so the company can vie with rivals like IBM Global Services.

Stressing the importance of the facility, BEA CEO Alfred Chuang said he has been seeking an innovation facility with Accenture.

"Obviously, no one has driven more technological changes than Accenture has done," he said.

Chuang cited a trend in which consumers have been driving technological change lately, rather than enterprises, with people in China now asking him his Facebook ID. The enterprise side has been lagging in areas such as collaboration, he said. BEA, meanwhile, needs partners and expertise to move forward with technology such as its upcoming Project Genesis to enable quick development of applications.

At the event, BEA and Accenture also hosted users of BEA software, including Warner Brothers, which has built a digital content vault that utilises such technologies as the BEA AquaLogic Service Bus and BPM products.

"What this is really doing is allowing Warner Brothers to distribute to the YouTubes, the iPods of the world," said Ryan Kido of Accenture.

Asked if Accenture was concerned about a recent attempt by Oracle to buy BEA, Rippert stressed the strength of BEA's technology.

"If somebody else buys the company and owns the products, we have great faith in the products," Rippert said.

Oracle's bid to buy BEA expired in late October after BEA decided the offer was too low.

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