BEA Wants to Turn ‘Liquid’ Into Gold

BEA Systems continued to broaden its horizons by unveiling a new round of products and services steeped in service-oriented architectures (SOA).

The San Jose, Calif.-based application server software vendor is one of several IT companies looking to ride the wave of linking servers and storage with complex designs to architect massive on-demand utility computing networks.

Dubbed, “Liquid Computing,” BEA officially launched the new initiative Wednesday during its annual company tradeshow. Company officials referred to the plan as a “vision of a fluid enterprise that is designed to help change IT responsiveness from a ‘month to minutes.'”

Formerly known as Project Sierra with roots in the company’s 2002 Liquid Data offerings, the platform centers on interoperability with BEA’s flagship software WebLogic. It also works with some technologies still in development, such as its XML-based service bus to Web services management technology (code-named Project QuickSilver) and a mobile version of Liquid Computing (referred to as Alchemy).

SOAs are becoming all the rage these days as companies link systems from any device using any operating system in any language. Though built on similar principles, SOA is not the same as Web services , which indicates a collection of technologies and protocols, such as SOAP and XML .

According to industry analyst firm Gartner Group, by 2008 more than 60 percent of enterprises will use SOA as the “guiding principle” when creating mission-critical applications and processes.

“Business that ignore the potential of SOA will find themselves outpaced by rivals who improve their agility and transform themselves into new kinds of enterprises,” Gartner analyst Yafim Natis said.

BEA knows this all too well. It is locked in struggle with Java-based enterprise rivals IBM, JBoss and Sun Microsystems , not to mention an occasional spar with Microsoft .

Already BEA has found common ground in its SOA pursuits. A partnership announced with HP earlier this week resulted in a non-binding pact to integrate HP OpenView management software more deeply throughout BEA’s WebLogic Enterprise Platform.

The company also launched Project Beehive this week — its open source foundation for building SOA and J2EE-based applications. The initiative got an almost immediate shot in the arm as the Apache Software Foundation said Tuesday it would accept Project Beehive as an open-source project in the Apache community. The two groups have had previous direct and indirect involvement in projects such as XMLBeans, Tomcat, Struts, and Axis.

“The Apache Foundation was our first choice for the Beehive open source project,” BEA CTO Scott Dietzen said in a statement. “With the Apache community’s help…we hope to help a greater number of Java developers build and orchestrate Java applications far more easily and without having to sacrifice portability and long-term investment protection.”

Beehive is expected to be available this summer for free under the standard Apache 2.0 license.

To keep customers and developers on their side, BEA today said it would ship WebLogic Server Process Edition in June. The software extension is designed to provide a common administration, security, user interface and coding framework. The company said the idea is to simplify and speed up the development process.

“Making changes to applications and extending their ability to interact with other systems is increasingly complex and costly, which is why a product that combines the robust capabilities of an application server with advanced [business process management] functionality is so appealing,” said META Group senior vice president and principal analyst Nick Gall.

Also today BEA announced extended support for its WebLogic Platform 8.1 to help customers build effective SOAs. Under the new policy, version 8.1 will be supported for five years under BEA normal support terms, with two years extended support available under additional terms.

A mere ten-months old, version 8.1 is 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 representatives claim will help it will vault “two generations of technology ahead” of the competition.

Overall, the analysts say the news bodes well for BEA, which is looking for more software and services 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.

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