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BEA Blends App Creation, Process Management

Following up on its promise to deliver service-oriented architecture (SOA) products at a time when the market has few, BEA Systems trotted out a new version of its application server that combines application creation with business process management (BPM).

The software maker believes BEA WebLogic Server Process Edition is an attractive offer at a time when customers have been using two software engines to tie distributed computing models such as SOAS , to business processes, also known as BPM.

The Java-based server enables composite application development and orchestrates services, such as airline ticket purchases and other transactions, from one integration development environment (IDE). WLS Process Edition provides BPM, data transformation and process monitoring capabilities as part of the app server for building service applications.

Previously, programmers who wished to create applications and run them with policies to coordinate their business workflows had to have two distinct software engines: an application run-time environment, such as WebLogic, and a separate engine for process management, such as Microsoft BizTalk.

"It's the first time anyone has offered an application server that's converging the traditional development environment we know and love with business process management and some other functionality, as well," said Peter Linkin, senior director of product marketing at BEA. "This meets the intersection of what customers want to see between app development and BPM."

Forrester Research backs up BEA's integration foresight. In a recent report, the analysis outfit listed BEA as the only vendor among rivals IBM , Microsoft and Oracle to offer a unified programming model for composite applications.

Having two engines in one will help customers save considerable cash in licensing fees, Linkin told internetnews.com. For example, the average application server costs between $15,000 and $17,000 per processor. A BPM engine usually costs in the range of $25,000 to $30,000 per processor

Linkin said BEA is offering the WLS Process Edition for $27,000 per processor, making the ability to create and deploy SOA environments a more cost-effective choice. Available now, WLS Process Edition already has one major customer, Covad, which is using the server to automate service changes over its national network.

The product is the first in what is likely to be a comprehensive SOA roll-out from BEA, which unveiled its Liquid Computing strategy at its eWorld conference in May.

At the conference in San Francisco, BEA officials demonstrated Alchemy, the company's mobile version of that vision to help match computing services with the needs of users on the go, as well as QuickSilver, an enterprise service bus.

The timing is salient, as IBM has already kicked the tires on its SOA strategy, with a foundational SOA tool. Moreover, Microsoft is well into its development of its Indigo SOA environment.

There is also evidence that the BPM space is percolating interest. Two weeks ago, Oracle bolstered its SOA offerings by acquiring Collaxa and integrating its BPEL engine. Last week, start-up Active Endpoints ceded its BPEL engine under the GNU General Public License (GPL).