BEA, Sun advance their Java app servers

BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems each advanced their Java application servers Monday. BEA offered customers a path to utility computing through a partnership with Veritas Software, while Sun released a low-end version of its application server that supports the latest enterprise Java standard.

BEA inked a deal to make its WebLogic application server work better with three Veritas products: Veritas OpForce, for automatically provisioning servers; Veritas Indepth, for managing the performance of applications; and Veritas Cluster Server, for linking servers together in a group.

"Our products have always supported BEA but it's been done in a way that you'd find support for a lot of other applications," said Arya Barirani, Veritas director of solutions marketing. "Now the organizations are working together more tightly on the engineering front, so that support will be deeper and a lot more customized."

The joint offering provides customers with a path to utility computing, the companies said. The utility model can help reduce IT costs by letting customers run applications on a group of relatively-low-cost servers, and then shift the workload between those servers automatically as demand for applications rises and falls, Barirani said.

Veritas and BEA position themselves as neutral vendors whose products work with a range of hardware and software. Their joint offering is probably more open than most, meaning it should work better in a heterogeneous environment with a mix of servers, operating systems and applications, said William Hurley, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

In contrast, utility software from companies like IBM and Oracle tend to work better with their own products, he said.

The closer ties to WebLogic will appear in a version of Indepth planned for September, and in a version of OpForce due some time in the fourth quarter, Barirani said. Veritas Cluster Server has already been validated for WebLogic and that product is available now, he said.

Other vendors including Hewlett-Packard offer utility software that works with BEA's products, and the deal with Veritas gives customers another option, said Benjamin Renaud, BEA's deputy chief technology officer. The partnership also includes joint sales and marketing efforts.

Separately Monday, Sun released Java System Application Server Platform Edition 8, an upgrade to its application server that supports version 1.4 of the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) specification, along with a corresponding software development kit. Platform Edition is a low-end version of Sun's Java software geared mainly towards pilot projects and departmental applications, said Dennis MacNeil, a senior product marketing manager at Sun.

Among the most significant advances in version 1.4 is support for the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) group's Basic Profile, which tells vendors how to implement the main Web services standards in order to interoperate with other vendors' products. The WS-I includes large software makers such as Microsoft, IBM, Sun and BEA, as well as some large customers. J2EE 1.4 builds in support for several other Web services technologies as well, making it easier for developers to link different types of software applications.

Platform Edition 8 also supports the new JavaServer Faces 1.0 specification, a set of APIs that should make it easier to create user interfaces for J2EE applications, and to reuse some of that code.

"In the past you were dependent on particular tools and particular vendors for those interfaces and they wouldn't necessarily run on all app servers. We've now standardized that, so when you build a user interface you know its going to work on any app server and with any tool that supports the (JavaServer Faces) spec," MacNeil said.

Sun commands a relatively small share of the application server market, trailing some way behind market leaders IBM and BEA. Still, it claimed to be first out the chute with a commercially shipping product that supports J2EE 1.4. The equivalent higher-end versions of its application server will be out in the second half of the year, MacNeil said.

Sun also announced Monday that 35 vendors are now using its application server in their products on an OEM basis. The market share figures for application servers are based on the amount of revenue generated by the products, so they don't take into account developers who download free versions of the products, MacNeil.

"With over a million downloads of our application server this year, I think we are doing a lot better than we get credit for," he said.

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