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Accenture Springs Batch Processing on Java

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Consulting giant Accenture is working on a Java standard for performing batch processing , a task normally thought of as a job for mainframe computers. But in the era of SOA , and with the efforts on the part of many firms to get away from mainframes, Accenture&nsbpthinks this is an idea whose time has come.

The consulting firm announced here at the JavaOne show that it is working with Interface21, the developer of the Spring Framework, an alternative to Enterprise JavaBeans that has been gaining popularity with each year since its release in 2003. The result is Spring Batch, batch processing for Java EE environments.

Scott Wintermute, program manager for Spring Batch at Accenture, said Spring has the ideal foundation for building a batch framework. "There are a number of skilled developers in the workforce who know it," he told internetnews.com. "It has a programming model that's similar to back-end support systems but runs in the middle tier."

There has been a lack of focus on batch processing for Java, added Wayne Lund, senior architect with Accenture. The company has found a few efforts to create batch processing for Java but none of them were large-scale projects, and there are no standards for how a Java-based batch should run.

To that end, Accenture is working on its own standard for how batch tasks should run. It would include a job control language, core services and services for unattended execution. It chose Spring because of its scalability and popularity.

"So long as you know Spring, you can do this," said Lund. "Using Spring, you can be up and running in an hour."

Even with the framework, a fair amount of custom development has to be done, but it would be less than what Accenture and its customers are doing now. "We want to provide customers with at least some guidance on best practices," said Wintermute. "At the end of the day, our clients want solutions and instructions on how to spend the minimum amount of time writing code."

The lack of standards can be a time-consuming problem. One of Accenture's customers is the state of California and it had to build 40 different batch-processing interfaces for dealing with different department agencies and for outside partners.

Batch processing off the mainframe makes sense, both because Java on the mainframe isn't very good and because a number of companies don't use mainframe computing, according to Randy Heffner, analyst with Forrester Research.

Heffner said Spring Batch will fill a need. "Some applications require batch processing, and Java is a good language for it," he told internetnews.com. "A SOA-based design provides a good basis for processing data through."

Accenture has begun "very preliminary" talks with Sun about the project, but Heffner pointed out that Sun is not a part of every single Java project. So Accenture could end up as the technology lead in this effort. Wintermute said Spring Batch will be released next month.