Accenture on Tuesday outlined the first details of its upcoming Web Services and Application Development Platform designed to help corporate users develop and deploy Web services for the Microsoft .Net environment as well as for J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition).
One of the big competitive advantages the upcoming platform provides both Accenture and its corporate IT shops is the ability to have a single common platform on which a development team spread around the world can develop and test applications from theirs or any other company, requiring only a browser.
Accenture currently has 42 development centers around the world where it works in tandem with corporate accounts to create Web services, with plans for additional centers.
"When you think about the major trends going on with IT services today, many of them involve outsourcing. So for a company like Accenture to have one place it can tie together a development workforce to a single job is a major strategic advantage," said Michael Corrado, Accenture's communications director in New York.
The new .Net-compatible platform, expected to be completed by September with a version for J2EE coming either late this year or early next, is described by company officials as a hosted application development and testing environment made up of three major components.
The first piece is a Web Services Library, which is a directory of certified Web services building blocks from several companies including Accenture. The library is intended to help developers create applications more quickly by reusing existing components.
The second piece is the Hosted Development Environment, which includes a number of development tools, software infrastructure and methodologies, and best practices intended to ensure faster and more efficient development and testing.
The third piece, Accenture's Web Service Certification service, is intended to ensure that applications are created using common standards. The service also helps those programmers who have not yet created a Web service to do so more quickly, company officials said.
"We feel this is something we can take to our largest clients that represents a complete environment for creating Web services they can just plug and play," said Michael Condon, a partner at Accenture based in Reston, Va.
Condon expects that the vast majority of Accenture's corporate customers will use the platform to create Web services that link internal processes and applications over the short term. He doesn't expect most of those users to create Web services that link applications of their customers and business partners outside the firewall for another year or two.
"Public Web services are a ways off for many customers, but development for internal use is starting to happen now," Condon said.
The upcoming Web services platform is being designed to work hand in glove with the ACA (Avanade Connected Architecture) .Net architecture, a collection of enabling technologies intended to make Web services run more reliably. In fact, ACA has become the de facto development framework for Accenture in building .Net products and services, a company spokesman said.
Avanade is a joint venture formed between Microsoft and Accenture in April 2000 that focuses on delivering Microsoft-based solutions to corporate users.