BEA shows Web services allegiance

Although BEA Systems has been in the somewhat-peculiar position of backing rival Web services choreography efforts, aligning with IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. on one proposal and Sun Microsystems on another, details of the company's new product suite, WebLogic Platform 8.1, reveal that BEA is moving closer to the IBM-Microsoft camp.

WebLogicPlatform 8.1, the company's Java applications platform suite unveiled at the BEA eWorld conference on Monday, supports the IBM-Microsoft-BEA Web services choreography proposal, known as Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS), said company CTO Scott Dietzen, in an interview this week. Version 8.1, however, does not support the rival Sun-driven effort, Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI), which also has had BEA's endorsement.

Web services choreography involves automation of Web services and is considered crucial for applications such as Web services-based transactions. An implementation of BPEL4WS is included in WebLogic Platform 8.1, Dietzen acknowledged.

"We're supporting BPEL4WS (in Version 8.1) because big customers, like Siebel, want it. We haven't had the same demand for WSCI," so it is not in the Version 8.1 container, said Dietzen.

Dietzen, however, noted that BPEL4WS is not a finalized proposal and that BEA hopes a single standard for choreography can be forged.

Two attendees at eWorld had differing perspectives on choreography standards efforts and Web services standards in general, but agreed on their importance.

"I think (standards are) critically important," said Erik Jordan, national technology director for Born, a systems integrator and consulting firm in Minnetonka, Minn. "I think that's probably one of the things that's really slowed down Web services adoption has been the lack of standards."

Jordan said he had some familiarity with choreography standards such as BPEL4WS. "That's another very important area that they need to address," he said. Business process integration will require choreography, Jordan added.

Jordan applauded BEA for attempting to overcome the lack of Web services standards for security with new technology in WebLogic Platform 8.1. Born has had some experience with Web services in the area of business-to-business applications, said Jordan .

Another attendee said that Web services need to mature before adoption will happen.

"To tell you the truth, I still don't see real maturity in (the Web services) space," said Perry Payne, manager of enterprise solutions at The Washington Post, in Washington . "We're still using Java objects to send all our data."

There are concerns with Web services security, Payne noted. The company, however, hopes to be utilizing Web services in about a year for applications such as sharing news reports between syndicates, he said.

While not versed in Web services choreograpy standards, Payne said The Washington Post was focused on JSR (Java Specification Request) 168 as a standard for implementing portals. BEA has made progress in offering standards-based tools for portals, according to Payne.

"(BEA officials) have come a long way in a year" as far as portals, said Payne.

Although Version 8.1 was just unveiled this week, a BEA official during a keynote presentation at eWorld Tuesday provided brief glimpses into the direction of future versions of WebLogic Platform. Key areas of focus include management, deployment, and automating changes, specifically deploying changes in a distributed environment, said Olivier Helleboid, president of the BEA Products Organization.

"The feedback we have gotten from many of you is that (change management) is still too complicated," Helleboid said.

BEA also is focusing on extending security in a general enterprise environment and adding simple tools for developers to move development closer to business operations.

Improving basic performance, scalability, and management also remains a priority, Helleboid said.

"We are a year or two years ahead of IBM in that space and we absolutely intend to stay that way," said Helleboid.

WebLogicPlatform 8.1 features new versions of products such as the WebLogic Server application server and WebLogic Workshop development environment. The platform is available in beta version now, with general availability planned for this summer.

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