BEA, Accenture open customer centre for SOA

BEA’s deputy CTO says the company is fielding more requests about how to consolidate their own IT infrastructure than the threat of more consolidation within the middleware sector by getting bought by Oracle.

The software vendor on Thursday announced the opening of a customer “Innovation Center” by consulting partner Accenture that will showcase successful deployments of its service-oriented architecture (SOA) products.

The facility, which will be based in San Jose, Calif., will be open to any enterprise that’s interested in getting more help with specific problems around business process management and other issues. The centre has been operating in stealth mode for a while now.

Robert Calloway, a senior executive who leads Accenture’s North American SOA practice, said Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Warner Bros and Corporate Express will be among the marquee customers whose projects are offered up as case studies for other firms. The facility will provide a place to do presentations with experts from Accenture and BEA that discuss both the technical underpinnings and strategic results at the user level, as well as a place for brainstorming. Calloway said there are at least three customers lined up to use the centre next month, including one that will send executives on Tuesday.

“That one, which I can’t name, they’re wanting to do some real innovative things around managing how they market their products in different geographies, and ways to manage and automate the business processes around those product campaigns,” he said. “The idea is not only to get perspective on BEA but also to use the centre as a collaborative think tank. In a very informal sense, we can have white board type of sessions – what they’re doing, the challenges they are facing, and how does business process management and SOA address that.”

Although the centre will be talking a lot about BEA’s Aqualogic suite for building SOAs, the company has most recently been touting the features of its Event Server, a product for data stream optimization that sends information through an SOA to help companies make decisions. BEA has said the next version of Event Server will focus on development tools to extend the product to business analysts. A graphical interface for setting rules is a highlight of the product.

“It’s often difficult for the customer to visualize what the end product would look like,” said BEA deputy CTO Theo Beack. “The innovation centre is to step them through the background and show them something tangible.” The opening of the centre with Accenture is one of the few times BEA has raised its profile since the company faced a buyout offer from Oracle, which has been developing its own middleware products.

Many of BEA’s customers run on Oracle’s flagship database, but conflicts over the share price sunk the deal last month. According to Beack, however, customers aren’t rattled. “The conversations we have with CIOs are about internal consolidation. They consolidate a tremendous amount of technology,” he said. “We’re focusing on how we help companies integrate and get more out of their technology.”

Calloway said there will be no costs or commitment from customers to make use of the Innovation Center, and the consulting firm is considering a road show where customers that can’t make it to the facility can learn some of its best practices. The showcase users may also speak directly to new customers through the centre.

“We would certainly encourage that,” Calloway said.

BEA’s Canadian customers include Toronto-based Sabre Holdings.

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