It's the vision thing

Bill Coleman, founder and chief executive of BEA Systems, freely admits he believes in "the vision thing", and in particular component software, which he believes is going to create a new model for software distribution.

Speaking to Computerworld at the recent BEA Users Conference in New Orleans, Coleman said he sees the middleware company he started with Ed Scott and Alfred Chuang just four years ago as the potential leader in providing commodity infrastructure in running large applications.

"There's an opportunity here to create a whole industry that emulates what Microsoft did on the PC but for the business environment in general. And I think BEA can be a major player, if not a leader in that industry. In the next five years we can be one of the top five software companies in [terms of] sales, profitability and market capitalisation," Coleman said.

Given BEA's performance to date, Coleman has cause to feel confident. The company now has 50 offices in 24 countries and 1300 employees. At the conference it announced its thirteenth successive quarter of record revenues. Its fourth quarter ended January 31, 1999, produced revenues of $US82 million, up 53 per cent over the same period the previous year. Revenues for the whole fiscal year were $US289 million, up 74 per cent.

BEA also announced it will deliver a unified CORBA and Java enterprise application server to provide a single, standards-based solution to build and manage component-based applications. BEA WebLogic Enterprise, as it will be known, will meld together BEA WebLogic with BEA M3. The company also launched BEA eLink, a family of off-the-shelf enterprise application integration (EAI) products.

So strong is his belief in component software that Coleman predicts a reversal in the trend towards buying application packages and a return to customised software. With the proliferation of enterprise software packages throughout the 1980s and 1990s it became hard to justify building rather than buying. But components, he says, will change all that and he believes packages have been the great levellers.

"If you were already a bad company and didn't have good practices, you probably could get some advantage by buying a system. But if you were a great company with powerful practices, you had to compromise them because you can't fit those practices into a one-size-fits-all enterprise resource planning system.

"That made the best companies less competitive and the worst companies more competitive. The world isn't that way, it's the survival of the fittest. I don't care about those guys who weren't competitive in the beginning because they're not going to survive ultimately anyway," said Coleman.

Keith Power travelled to New Orleans as a guest of BEA Systems

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