BEA puts WebLogic 7 on sale, partners with HP

BEA Systems on Tuesday announced that the latest upgrade to its suite of middleware products, WebLogic Platform 7.0, will go on sale this week. It also announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard Co. that may shed some light on HP's own middleware plans, which have been under scrutiny.

BEA has pitched WebLogic Platform 7.0 as a more unified environment for developing and deploying e-business applications. For the first time, customers will be able to purchase and install BEA's application server, portal server and integration server, which are all included in the suite, from a single CD or download, said Mark Carges, president of BEA's enterprise framework division.

Updates and patches will also be released in unison, part of an effort to address criticisms about "server pack collisions." Some BEA customers have said installing a patch for one product can disrupt other software from the vendor that is already up and running. Providing patches and updates for all its products simultaneously should fix this issue, company officials have said.

WebLogic Platform 7.0 also includes the first commercial release of WebLogic Workshop, a developer framework that has been compared to Microsoft Corp.'s Visual Basic. The product includes visual modelling tools designed to let developers who are not experts in J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) play a role in developing Web services. Also known by its code name, Cajun, the product was first detailed earlier this year.

The announcements were made at BEA's eWorld Europe developer conference, which takes place Tuesday and Wednesday in Paris. The standard English langauge version of WebLogic Platform 7.0 will be available Friday, with localized editions to follow in the coming months, Carges said, speaking to reporters at BEA's offices here last week.

At least one large customer was won over. APL Ltd., which provides container services to the shipping industry, will begin its upgrade to WebLogic Platform 7.0 early next year. The company expects to benefit from standardizing on a single vendor rather than trying to integrate "best of breed" products, such as a portal server and integration server, from multiple suppliers, said Michael Langlois, director of enterprise architecture at APL.

To that end, APL is ditching some of the middleware it acquired from IBM Corp., including its WebSphere application server, in favor of BEA's software, he said. BEA's products "may not all be best of breed, but they're up there with the best of them," he said.

The decision to standardize on BEA was driven by its promise of a more unified development environment and by the prospect of having to deal with only one vendor for middleware products, he said. When it decided to standardize on BEA a year ago, "the competition didn't have all of those pieces," he noted.

BEA has increasingly pitched itself as a "one stop shop" for businesses, stressing the advantages to customers of dealing with a single vendor and a single platform for their infrastructure software. It competes with IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp., among others, which have also worked hard to round out their middleware products and tools.

BEA and IBM each held about one third of the application server market in 2001, according to recent figures from Dataquest Inc., with Sun, Oracle and others battling over the remainder. IBM began 2001 with a smaller share of the market than BEA, however, and attracted new license revenue at a rate three times greater than that of BEA, said Dataquest, a unit of Gartner Inc.

BEA's position should be helped by an expansion to its relationship with HP which was also announced Tuesday. The companies will jointly market BEA's software across all of HP's operating systems including HP-UX, OpenVMS, NonStop Kernel and Tru64 Unix, as well as Windows and Linux, the companies said.

HP will become a preferred strategic systems integrator for BEA with a dedicated team of BEA-certified consultants, and HP-UX will become BEA's first enterprise-class Unix operating system supported by Intel Corp.'s 64-bit Itanium processor, the companies said in a statement.

The deal may help to shed some light on HP's own middleware plans. HP disclosed to financial analysts earlier this month that it would "retire" its money-losing middleware products, which include the application server acquired two years ago from Bluestone Software Inc. It has since declined to elaborate, promising further details at a software conference for users that is underway this week in Seattle.

Industry sources, however, have said that HP is trying to sell off its middleware division, and that it plans to rely instead on partnerships with vendors such as BEA and Microsoft Corp. to meet its customers' middleware needs. For customers who favor Java, HP could offer BEA's products, analysts have said, while for Microsoft fans it could offer its .Net software. [See "HP plans to sell off middleware products," June 4, and "Analysts: HP blew chance at software leadership," June 13]The deal announced Tuesday with BEA may represent the first part of that strategy, although HP did not return calls Monday seeking further comment. Those industry sources also said that HP is in discussions with Oracle over a possible acquisition of HP's middleware products, although both companies have refused to comment. [See "Sources: Oracle in talks to buy HP middleware," June 6.]BEA's WebLogic Platform 7.0 will be priced at $90,000 per processor, including WebLogic Server 7.0, WebLogic Portal 7.0, WebLogic Integration 7.0 and WebLogic Workshop, the company said. That compares to $117,000 if customers were to pay list prices and acquire the products separately, which they can still choose to do, BEA's Carges said.

On a standalone basis, WebLogic Portal 7.0 is priced at $57,000 per CPU. There are no changes in packaging from version 4.0 of the product, but new features aim to make it easier for businesses to create and manage portals and to add Web services capabilities, the company said.

WebLogic Integration 7.0 is priced at $62,000 per CPU. New packaging includes add-on options of EAI adapters, WebLogic Business Connect and an EDI Connect for BEA WebLogic Integration.

WebLogic Workshop carries a list price of $2,495 per development seat; a license is also included for customers who acquire one of the other 7.0 products.

BEA WebLogic Server 7.0, BEA's flagship product, was released earlier this year priced at $12,000 per CPU for a basic configuration. It will now also be available as part of the platform product.

Upgrade prices for the products are also available.

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