HP to bundle BEA app server with HP-UX

Hewlett Packard (HP) on Monday will announce plans to bundle a trial version of BEA Systems's application server software with all of its servers, starting with those running HP-UX, company officials said. The move fills an important gap in HP's own software line-up and could help BEA to gain some market share against its chief rival IBM, according to one industry analyst.

Starting this month, HP will begin shipping for no charge a six-month trial version of BEA's WebLogic Application Server 7 with each copy of its HP-UX operating system. In the months ahead it will bundle BEA's software with every server it sells and supports, including those running Linux, Microsoft Corp. Windows 2000 and its own OpenVMS software, said Don Jenkins, HP's vice president of marketing for operating environments.

The deal follows a decision by HP earlier this year to sell off its own Netaction family of middleware products, which it said were losing money, and to partner instead with other vendors. The BEA alliance, which includes joint sales, marketing and development efforts, fills a gap created by its decision to cancel those products, said Mike Gilpin, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group Inc.

"Since HP exited the application server business it's important for them to have a close partner, and to have one of the leading vendors like BEA makes a lot of sense for them," Gilpin said.

The move also should be a boost to BEA, he said. The Java software maker is locked in heated competition with IBM's WebSphere product -- the vendors each control about one third of the application server market, according to analyst estimates -- and the deal with HP "could help them pick up another couple of points of market share," Gilpin said.

For its part of the deal, BEA will push HP's OpenView software management platform as the preferred choice with its application server, said Gamile Gran, BEA vice president for strategic alliances.

In a statement, IBM sought to play down the significance of the deal, calling it an attempt by BEA "to make up for the fact that IBM has rapidly gained market share."

"IBM has partnerships with 9,000 business partners, including top companies such as PeopleSoft, Dessault, Ariba and i2. These partnerships are a major factor in WebSphere's 13 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth," IBM's statement said.

In fact, hoping to steal some of BEA's thunder, IBM is nearing the completion of a similar bundling deal with HP involving two of its key middleware products, namely DB2 and Websphere, according to a source familiar with the plans. The deal also involves co-marketing and co-development aspects, the source said.

Asked about the upcoming deal, an IBM spokeswoman declined to comment, and HP could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

The moves come as part of a broader trend towards bundling in the application server market. Sun Microsystems Inc., for example, said recently that it will give away a basic version of its application server with its Solaris 9 operating system.

HP Monday will also announce plans to sell a new tool called HP OpenView Transaction Analyzer, designed to monitor the performance of applications running on BEA's software, Jenkins said. The software "traces transactions through their entire cycles and helps users to identify performance bottlenecks across the WebLogic infrastructure," he said.

Positioning itself as "platform neutral," HP has said that it will also partner with Microsoft Corp. to offer that company's middleware for customers who prefer to use Microsoft's .Net software, which competes with Java. To that end, it said its new analyzer product can also help boost application performance in Microsoft .Net environments, something it claimed is an industry first.

"This is the first solution by any vendor that will automatically troubleshoot performance bottlenecks in both J2EE and Microsoft DNA environments," Jenkins said.

"The integration with Weblogic Server has been co-developed by BEA and HP, and we think this brings some unique value to customers to respond to performance bottlenecks," he added.

The partnership with BEA is not an exclusive one, and HP will continue to work with other application server providers for customers who prefer other vendors' products, Jenkins said. "We're making a significant investment in BEA, but we'd work with others," he said.

The version of BEA's application server to be bundled with HP-UX is its Advantage Edition, which is compliant with the latest J2EE 1.3 specification, BEA's Gran said. "It has the full WebLogic functionality except for one feature - there's no clustering in there," he said.

"Customers can move the product into a production environment but we have a limit of 20 concurrent users," he added. After the six-month trial period is up customers must decide whether to purchase the product, he said.

"This opens up a whole new set of customer opportunities for us. We believe the HP-UX community really does bring tremendous upside to us," he said.

(Ed Scannell, an InfoWorld editor-at-large, contributed to this report.)

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