BEA Presses on with New WebLogic Platform

BEA Systems Monday plans to unveil the latest version of its WebLogic Platform, which company representatives claim will help it vault “two generations of technology ahead” of the competition.

The San Jose, Calif.-based software maker will draw the curtain on BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 at the BEA eWorld 2003 Conference show in Orlando, Fla. According to BEA Director of Product Marketing John Kiger, the new iteration of the firm’s flagship platform takes business integration to another level by bundling integration and application development into a single platform.

The news bodes well for BEA, looking for more purchase in a business integration software market that some research firms estimate will amount to about $10 billion by 2007. Business integration software combines various functions — such as customer relationship management (CRM) and order processing — to ensure that business processes flow across a value chain, and to analyze and monitor the integration of those processes.

This new approach, Kiger said, gives enterprises a better way to integrate and use applications and Web services — something he said the likes of IBM and Oracle do not yet offer. The full-fledged platform features new versions of BEA’s application server, Java virtual machine, enterprise portal, application development and deployment environment and software integration.

Kiger said BEA laid the foundation for Monday’s announcement a year ago with WebLogic 7, which he said was the first product to bundle integration and application into one product.

“They were based on different technology foundations [before then],” Kiger said. “We realized we had to integrate infrastructure before getting around to applications that deliver a unified architecture geared to reduce complexity.”

The difference between WebLogic and say, a competing product such as IBM’s WebSphere, he said, was that “IBM primarily has used brand unification of 300 products that are very disparate.” For example, Kiger said, IBM’s business integration server does not work with the application server. With WebLogic 8.1, the integration and application server are harmonious.

Kiger argued that BEA now has a competitive advantage with WebLogic 8.1 because it has simplified the development process because there is one platform to run build tools on and run business processes. For instance, a developer could build applications and using the same platform, integrate it with the backend to cut down on development time.

“But with Websphere, the infrastructure is heterogeneous and so are the tools,” Kiger said, making the crafting of business applications more taxing. “There are no transferous skills or knowledge involved.”

As for the different pieces of the WebLogic Platform, BEA WebLogic Integration 8.1 relies on a new architecture for the creation and integration of applications, business processes and partner trading communities. Built on the BEA WebLogic Server, it employs a single architecture that uses the company’s development environment, BEA WebLogic Workshop, as well as WebLogic Workshop’s runtime framework to supply a high level of abstraction. What does this do? It makes application development and integration on the J2EE platform easier and cleaner.

Slated to be one of the first products to support the new Java portlet standard, JSR 168, for portlet-level development, and the new Java content repository standard, JSR 170, for content management system integration, BEA WebLogic Portal 8.1 will provide customers with a portal framework and business services to ease the production and management of customized portals.

The aforementioned WebLogic Workshop 8.1 fuses two different methodologies around integration and application development into a unified model. The development environment and runtime framework enables customers to base all IT projects — including development of Web applications, Web services, portal and integration projects — on one platform, which will make building and integrating enterprise assets easier.

Last but not least of the pieces of the revamped WebLogic Platform is the WebLogic Server 8.1, which Kiger said is the first application server to implement both Web services security and an infrastructure for delivering SOAP messages, making it more reassuring for companies to build and use Web services. WebLogic Server 8.1 allows administrators to configure a cluster in just minutes, whereas other servers may take hours or days.

The BEA Developer Program also has some new additions to the family. dev2dev Subscriptions is a tiered program and subscription service to sell WebLogic developer tools and technologies to the developer community. The dev2dev Subscription Trial Edition gives developers a one-year license to the entire WebLogic Enterprise Platform for free.

BEA WebLogic 8.1 is available now in beta from the company’s Web site. It is expected to roll out this summer to the public.

Not to be outdone, IBM Monday also bolstered its business integration wares, adding the modeling and monitor assets of its Holosofx acquisition. In related BEA eWorld conference news, HP was on hand discuss new investments in the its Web Services products by extending its OpenView management tools.