Making the latest kick in the application server races, BEA Systems on Monday slid WebLogic 9.0 onto the speedway.
Now generally available, the latest incarnation of BEA's application server comes replete with updates to the kernel, support for multiple programming models, and a honed focus on operations, administration, and management.
BEA injected side-by-side upgrade capabilities and hot upgrade functionality into the kernel. Side-by-side upgrades enable administrators to install new J2EE-based applications and "gracefully migrate users to the new app," said Bill Roth, vice president of product marketing at BEA. "You get the ability to turn the dial on how many users move from one version to another." Administrators can roll back to the original version, Roth added.
Hot patch features, meanwhile, arm administrators to upgrade servers in a cluster without users experiencing any downtime, Roth claimed.
The company also broke new ground by supporting programming models other than just J2EE. With WebLogic 9.0, developers now can use the Spring Framework and Apache Beehive.
"Our developers are telling us that they are using additional models to J2EE and often they're blending J2EE with Spring," Roth explained.
On the operations, administration, and management fronts, BEA added the WebLogic Diagnostic Framework, which enables IT to look inside applications while they are running.
WebLogic 9.0 also features a new UI, Roth said. "Administrators now have a My Yahoo-like ability to administer the server," he said. "It's very customizable."
Also, the new WebLogic Scripting Tool lets administrators automate a number of scripting jobs.
BEA is billing this release as an enabler for businesses to move toward SOAs. An industry analyst echoed that, but said BEA has more work to do when it comes to SOAs.
"WebLogic 9.0 is interesting in terms of flushing out support of SOA, but BEA needs to deliver on some of the longer-term announcements they talked about around AquaLogic earlier this quarter. Once that happens, their SOA offerings will be more complete," said Steve Garone, vice president and senior analyst of applications and integration infrastructure with Ideas International.
When it comes to application server stacks, "the most important new features to customers are high-availability and transaction management," said Dennis Byron, analyst for business process automation and deployment software research at IDC.
Byron continued that although technology-wise BEA is typically 1-2 years ahead of its competitors -- namely IBM, Oracle, and Sun -- one cannot precisely compare the stacks against each other. IBM, he said, offers the best products on mainframes, while BEA's software dominates on Linux.
Byron authored a report IDC released last week stating that during 2004, the top ranking application deployment software vendors retained the slots they had in 2003. While IBM led with 37 percent, and BEA placed at 12 percent, Oracle showed with 7 percent, the report said. IBM also protected its dominance on mainframes, OS/400 and Windows, while BEA carried home the Linux and Unix trophies.
Which application server is actually the best choice, however, "all depends on what the user needs in terms of industry, operating environment, high-performance, high-availability, newer programming paradigms, standards, and integration with other features like portals," Byron said.