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SOA platform modernizes government agencies

Accenture has packaged together open source and commercial products from AquaLogic, WebLogic, Oracle and others in a SOA platform tuned to the specific needs of the public sector.

Frequent changes to social program rules and eligibility can make public service IT departments scramble. A new platform put together by consulting firm Accenture seeks to address this issue with the agility of SOA.

The company has tested and bolted together a set of open source and commercial enterprise architecture products focused on easing many of the issues public service IT departments now face. Though components are subject to change, the current offering includes WebLogic portal and application server, AquaLogic Integrator and BPM, Oracle Fusion data services, Oracle security, Spring framework and others.

"A lot of government organizations are working on major modernization efforts because they're being supported by systems that are decades old," said David McCurley, global managing director of Accenture's human services division. "We are seeing an increasing demand for services and SOA."

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The technical architecture of Accenture's platform brings SOA into the equation but it is at the application services layer where components are tuned specifically for public services. Here, users can find public and private access channels, portals, CRM bolt-ins, IVR frameworks and other prebuilt components to handle various governmental tasks. One specific problem for public services is keeping rules systems up to date.

"A lot of the programs have very complicated eligibility rules," said McCurley.

With many of these rules systems written in COBOL, a change to a program's requirements could involve deep-seeded changes. This can be time consuming. To address these sorts of difficulties, Accenture uses ILog JRules rules engine.

While Accenture markets this product as a sort of SOA-in-a-box, experts often say SOA is not a product but a mindset. Service orientation works best where IT departments are fully thinking in terms of composite applications, reuse and the services' value to the organization.

McCurley said he agrees that getting into the SOA mindset is important. But after that point there are certain tools that an organization will typically need, such as an ESB, security and a data services layer.

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