BEA details Liquid Computing plan

Declaring an end to the era of integration as it has been known, BEA Systems Inc. Chairman, CEO, and Founder Alfred Chuang at the BEA eWorld 2004 conference in San Francisco on Tuesday rolled out the company's "Liquid Computing" vision for building SOAs (service-oriented architectures) that are responsive to rapid changes in IT needs.

As part of Liquid Computing, which had been code-named "Project Sierra," Chuang during a keynote speech touched briefly on two development efforts: Project QuickSilver, which provides message-brokering for SOAs, and Alchemy, to boost mobile computing.

Separately from Chuang's speech, BEA unveiled WebLogic Server Process Edition on Tuesday, a version of the company's application server that is intended to converge capabilities of application development and BPM (business process management) in building SOAs.

SOAs provide for rapid changes in IT infrastructure through use of composite applications and services, and through connectivity concepts such as Web services. SOAs, according to BEA, feature a set of principles and practices for sharing, reusing, and orchestrating business logic represented as services or components.

"Today, we begin to build a foundation, a foundation that's designed to leverage SOA and forever change IT from a barrier to an enabler of business value," Chuang said.

Liquid Computing features three main themes around SOAs: enterprise compatibility, active adaptability, and breakthrough productivity. With Liquid Computing, BEA is attempting to enable quick changes to IT infrastructure, according to Chuang. He stressed that today, enterprises try to connect applications that were never intended to work together.

"The ultimate goal is to automate change," Chuang said.

"We believe that the SOA is the architecture that will finally deliver the full value of IT," Chuang said. Liquid Computing allows CIOs and IT personnel to align with up-to-the-minute business goals, he said.

To deliver on the Liquid Computing vision, Chuang cited Project QuickSilver, which provides a convergence of message brokering and Web services management, for sharing of services across a heterogeneous environment. Project Quicksilver will function with environments ranging from Microsoft's .Net to even IBM's WebSphere, SAP AG, and legacy messaging environments such as Tibco Software's Rendezvous, he said.

"QuickSilver will bridge, will route, and coordinate services to flow information anytime within and beyond the enterprise," Chuang said.

Although Chuang never used the term ESB (enterprise service bus), QuickSilver would meet the definition of an ESB, and BEA officials have acknowledged the company has been pondering releasing an ESB. An official at BEA partner Blue Titan Software questioned during a separate interview this week the need for more ESB products. "The bus is kind of a last resort for EAI folks to service-enable their technologies and that space is becoming quickly commoditized," said Glenn Hasen, president and CEO of Blue Titan.

Alchemy, meanwhile, is about computing becoming mobile and pursuing truly mobile Web applications, Chuang said. "This concept is radical," he said.

No timelines for product releases were provided for either QuickSilver or Alchemy during Chuang's presentation.

WebLogic Server Process Edition is designed to allow J2EE developers to leverage powerful BPM tools and frameworks for building complex business solutions in a shorter amount of time, according to BEA. The product is scheduled to be available this summer.

A BEA official on Monday emphasized differences in granularity between component-based architectures based on SOAs and those previously based on OOP (object-oriented programming), which did not fulfill promises.

"With shared services and SOA, what we're seeing is it's higher level, granular service," said Erik Frieberg, BEA senior director of product marketing at BEA. "OOP never said that I can take information about a purchase order and basically share it across an enterprise with a whole set of systems, with a loosely coupled data format using XML," Frieberg said.

BEA on Tuesday also announced a life-cycle support policy for BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 through which 8.1 will be supported for five years under normal BEA support terms, with two years extended support available under additional terms. The policy is intended to provide a predictable support roadmap and support framework for users building applications and SOAs on the BEA platform, BEA said.

Also at eWorld, Hewlett Packard is unveiling software, services and an extension of a collaborative agreement with BEA all intended to boost SOAs.

HP is announcing "Real-Time Information Director" software to enable real-time visibility into company, supplier and partner systems. The software is based on the company's Zero Latency Architecture, derived from the HP NonStop business. The software uses BEA WebLogic Server to apply business rules in real time while integrating and distributing business data across a company, supplier or partner systems.

In addition, HP and BEA signed a non-binding letter of intent to integrate HP OpenView system management software more deeply throughout the BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform as BEA's management platform of choice, HP said. This collaboration is intended to make it easier to for joint customers to deploy and manage SOAs.

The HP OpenView Management Integration Platform, built on top of technology acquired through its 2003 purchase of Talking Blocks, will be more tightly integrated to BEA's platform through development of an HP OpenView SPI (Smart Plug-in). The integration platform provides for SOA management.

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