BEA ships WebLogic Platform 8.1

BEA Systems announced the general availability last Friday of WebLogic Platform 8.1, the latest edition of its suite of Java server software for developing, deploying and integrating business applications.

The suite includes BEA's application server and JRockit Java virtual machine, which were released in March, as well as new editions of its portal server, integration server, and Workshop development environment. The products can be downloaded together or separately from BEA's Web site, the company said.

Collectively, BEA is pitching the products as a more integrated, unified environment for developing and tying together business applications. The San Jose, California, company first discussed the platform, which is based on the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) standard, at its eWorld conference in Orlando, Florida, in March.

The application server is faster than the previous edition, while refreshed portal software adds support for a proposed Java standard that should allow customers to run portlets designed for one portal server on a server from a different vendor, BEA said.

The upgrade to WebLogic Workshop is also significant, according to BEA. It includes a more intuitive interface that should make it easier to use, and it no longer has to be used with a third-party tool such as Borland JBuilder, although developers can still integrate other tools with it, the company has said.

BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1 is priced at US$90,000 per CPU (central processing unit), including a clustered version of WebLogic Server 8.1 and WebLogic Portal 8.1, WebLogic Integration 8.1, WebLogic JRockit 8.1, and WebLogic Workshop 8.1. BEA customers can also obtain development versions of the products at no charge for one year as part of BEA's dev2dev subscription program, the company said.

IBM Corp., Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. also offer Java platform suites that include an application server, portal server, integration server and tools. Other rivals are better known for individual "point" offerings, such as SeeBeyond Inc. with its integration server, and JBoss Group LLC with its open-source application server. Microsoft Corp., meanwhile, is pitching its .Net software as an alternative development platform to Java.

Over the next three years, more than 70 percent of Java platform suites purchased will be sold as separate components rather than as whole suites, according to Gartner Inc. research note from May. However, the availability of a platform suite from the vendor will be a positive influence in two thirds of those sales, Gartner said.

The research company sees closer rivalry emerging between platform suite vendors and those who offer stand-alone products. SeeBeyond, for example, which Gartner described as a leader in integration software, has tried to expand beyond its core competence by offering an application server, Gartner noted.

Indeed, BEA, regarded as an early leader in application server technology, broadened its own offerings to become a platform suite vendor. The company lost its market-share lead for application servers last year to its closest rival, IBM, according to Gartner.

Gartner said it's too early to call any of the platform suite vendors leaders since the market is still young, but it gave BEA a slight edge for its ability to execute and its vision.

Alfred Chuang, BEA's founder, chairman and chief executive officer, will be at a press conference in San Francisco Aug. 4 to discuss BEA's products and plans, the company said.

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