Accenture builds .Net hosting platform

Accenture Ltd. has partnered with Microsoft Corp. and Avanade Inc. to create a hosted development environment for .Net Web services applications.

The new Accenture Web Services Platform has been designed to help businesses build and manage large-scale Web services projectsbased on Microsoft’s .Net Web services architecture, according to information provided via e-mail by a public relations agency involved in the announcement, which will be made officially next week.

The hosted platform can be used to build, test and deploy Web services and business applications that use Web services. It features Microsoft’s Visual Studio .Net application development environment and Avanade’s ACA .Net development architecture.

Avanade’s ACA .Net complements Visual Studio .Net by providing a framework and a set of preconfigured software development components designed to help developers build XML-based Web services and applications, according to information on Avanade’s Web site.

For Accenture, this announcement represents another step forward in the company’s increasingly aggressive focus on outsourcing, particularly application hosting and management, said Andrew Efstathiou, a Yankee Group analyst.

Moreover, Accenture does well by focusing not only on hosting applications but also on hosting the application development process, he said. Over the past several years, Accenture has broadened its focus into outsourcing from its traditional core of consulting and system integration, he said.

The Accenture Web Services Platform can also provide and maintain development and testing environments for development teams, allowing team members access to tools from remote locations over the Internet, according to the information provided.

Enabling this type of remote collaboration for application development also represents a step forward for Accenture. Allowing developers to collaborate without all of them having to be at a specific place and time is increasingly popular and ties into the trend of offshore application development, Efstathiou said. It also gives the development team more flexibility in terms of time and allows for more developers to be involved, he added.

Web services is a term that increasingly means different things to different vendors, but in general terms it refers to a new breed of standards-based applications that can communicate and exchange data over the Internet across different platforms. These Internet-delivered applications would thus let a company link its internal operations with external parties, such as clients, partners and suppliers. This is a concept that most large IT vendors are embracing, including Microsoft and IBM Corp.

Having standards-based Web services applications that can interoperate with other applications over the Internet without needing adjustment lets companies deploy new software functions much more rapidly than with traditional applications that have more rigid architectures, Efstathiou said. Thus, these Web services applications let companies tune their business processes more quickly, giving them more flexibility to adapt faster to changing market dynamics and internal needs, he added.

The new Accenture hosted platform will be unveiled officially on Tuesday, when more details will be provided, according to the e-mail message.

Accenture is one of the world’s largest IT services firms. Avanade, a Microsoft technology integrator for the enterprise market, is a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft.