The tighter relationship between computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. and software vendor BEA Systems Inc. is beginning to show results. Executives from BEA revealed this week that the share of new BEA software deployed on hardware sold by HP has jumped by 31 percentage points in the last year.
The gains appear have been made principally at the expense of HP's competitor, Sun Microsystems Inc., whose Solaris operating system on Sun server hardware has long been the dominant platform for BEA's middleware products.
After spending US$470 million on the acquisition of middleware company Bluestone Software Inc. in 2001, HP last year decided to kill off its Bluestone products and partner instead with BEA, whose Weblogic application server has been highly successful in the middleware space.
In its first fiscal quarter of 2003 -- the three-month period that ended on the last day of April 2002 -- 71 percent of all the software BEA sold was deployed on Sun hardware, predominantly running the Solaris operating system, according to Mercedes Ellison, BEA's senior vice president of alliances marketing. That number dropped to 40 percent in BEA's most recent fiscal quarter, which ended in July of this year.
The percentage of BEA software deployed on HP systems jumped from 5 percent to 36 percent during the same period of time, Ellison said.
Because the numbers refer only to new deployments, a large majority of BEA's customers still are Sun shops, said Ellison, but HP and BEA's relationship has become closer over the last year and that is making BEA less dependent upon Sun, she said. "Sun is still number one from a share perspective, but HP is catching up fast," she said.
Approximately 60 percent of BEA deployments on HP hardware were on the HP-UX operating system, with Linux and Windows accounting for 30 and 10 percent, respectively, said Lane Nonnenberg, the vice president and general manager of HP services alliances.
Sun had traditionally had a very close relationship with BEA. The fact that the company's three founders, Alfred Chuang, Bill Coleman and Ed Scott, all came from the Santa Clara, California, company helped make Sun's Solaris the standard platform for BEA, said Yesim Natis, a vice president with industry research group Gartner Inc.
"For almost their entire existence, they were key partners with Sun. Sun sales people were trained to sell BEA," he said. It was a very close relationship."
But with Sun intent on selling the same kind of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) software as BEA, the relationship began to sour, said Natis.
This souring, combined with HP's decision to exit the middleware business, brought HP and BEA closer together, he said.
Today, HP's sales force sells BEA's products, which are now supported by more than 300 HP service employees, according to Ellison. The companies cooperate in joint marketing and sales engagements, and HP's HP-UX Unix operating system was made a tier one platform for BEA products last quarter, she added.
"HP has become the entity that Sun used to be," Natis said.
The Gartner analyst believes that the HP-BEA relationship could become even closer, spurred on by competitive pressures from IBM Corp. and Sun. "There is a distinct possibility that in the next two years HP will be acquiring BEA," he said. "I do not believe that the new HP -- with Compaq (Computer Corp.) -- is satisfied with not being in the platform competition. All of their competitors are in it," he said. "So they're going to want to be in it again."
Such a scenario would not play well with one BEA user. "If HP were to buy them outright, I'd be concerned," said Dave Gallaher, the director of IT development with Colorado's Jefferson County.
Gallaher, who is running BEA Weblogic on HP-UX as part of a countywide address management system, said that the fact that BEA supports other platforms such as Solaris and Windows is part of its appeal. "One of the things we like about BEA is the fact that they weren't tied to any one big hardware vendor. It lowered our overall risk," he said.