IBM has set up an SOA (service oriented architecture) centre of excellence to tap into the growing interest in the technology.

The centre, which will be based in the IBM office in Hursley, will be open to all IBM customers looking to transform their business.

Steve Wells, the head of the Centre of Excellence, said that the centre carried on work that IBM had already been doing but was taking the concept one step further.

"The point of the centre is to talk about SOA technology as it applies to the likes of Tivoli, Rational and WebSphere," said Wells. "We don’t get too focused on the technology, it’s all about solving business problems. What we do for them is to create a road map for where they want to go."

IBM has established a 'pseudo company' at the centre to help customers simulate business procedures, said Wells. The imaginary insurance company runs its applications on more than 40 different servers and, according to Well, provides customers with insights as to how particular technologies will be handled.

Wells acknowledged that there had been a degree of confusion as to the term SOA and what it meant for the average user. He said that he always took SOA to mean "something that offers the ability to design a solution that allows different technologies running on different platforms to interconnect in such a way that it solves business problems," but he agreed that other people had had their own definitions. He pointed out that the centre was a way of clearing up some of the confusion.

They’d already had a mixed bag of customers but Wells had opinions on who the best customers were. "The customers that are most fun to work with are those who know what they want to achieve but they don’t know how to do it."