Companies looking to get a head-start with an SOA roll-out are being offered a new service from Micro Focus. The company has launched a new product called SOA Express that provides a way for customers to convert the code for existing services.

The company said that with SOA Express, customers would be able to respond to market conditions more efficiently, without the need to overhaul existing IT infrastructure or retrain existing staff. Micro Focus claimed that the product offers a way to move to SOA by ensuring that new services do not affect existing applications. It also means that applications developers can concentrate on new services rather than mess around with existing code.

"The number of COBOL programmers who have an in-depth knowledge of Java or J2EE are few and far between,” said Derek Britton, senior director for product management at Micro Focus. "It’s a way for companies to convert existing COBOL code," said Britton, "without having to go through a lot of manual processes. There are fewer errors that way."

Britton stressed that SOA Express would not offer a short-cut to implementing SOA itself. “You need people who understand the business processes and how they fit within your business but what it does do is save a considerable amount of coding time. Anecdotally, we have evidence that a conversion project that would take six weeks manually can be completed in two hours."

The target market for the product is financial institutions. “Take an insurance clerk who’s been asked to provide a quote for home contents insurance and car insurance together. At the moment, that could take 15 to 20 steps but the whole process could be transformed by web services. SOA Express could cut down on the errors in that transformation,” Britton said.

SOA Express doesn’t come cheap. “This isn’t a $100 a seat product,” agreed Britton. "It’s a six-figure sum, varying according to the size of the job. But the ROI on this is, just how long would it take to do manually," he added.