HP said service oriented architecture (SOA) for more efficient development of IT services is ready to move from the testing phase into production.

HP has this week introduced software and service products to help businesses implement SOA in their organisations. Most of the software comes from HP's 2006 acquisition of Mercury Interactive.

"It's time for SOA to come out of the prototype stage and move into the mainstream," said Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP.

Ron Schmelzer, a senior analyst at ZapThink said the HP announcement is the first indication of the strategy HP is developing from its $4.5 billion (£2.29bn) acquisition of Mercury, which included a company Mercury acquired called Systinet. Mercury specialised in business optimisation software and Systinet in SOA governance and lifecycle management software.

SOA is also a big opportunity for HP rival IBM. At an IBM event in Orlando on Monday, IBM announced establishment of SOA certification programs for IT professionals, an online portal of SOA information and IBM's own set of SOA software and services.

IBM has an advantage over HP in SOA, said Schmelzer, because HP doesn't own a middleware software company. That means HP can provide software and consulting to manage an SOA deployment, but they can't actually run an SOA-based service except by partnering with a middleware provider.

But HP sees itself as a management company, not a middleware company, said Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at Burton Group Inc. "They have no intention of becoming a middleware company," she said. HP partners with middleware vendors. By contrast, IBM tries to bundle its middleware product tightly with its SOA offerings, contrary to the reality of data centres that have hardware and software from a variety of vendors.