BEA pins future on WebLogic as integration software

Executives from BEA Systems Inc. outlined their vision of BEA as an integration software vendor at the official launch of BEA's WebLogic 8.1 product Monday in San Francisco.

WebLogic 8.1, which actually began shipping on July 15, represents a major upgrade to the previous version of the product, WebLogic 7.0 because it is the first time WebLogic's portal, application server and development tool have been so completely integrated, said Chief Executive Officer Alfred Chuang, speaking at the Monday. (BEA elected not to ship an 8.0 version of WebLogic for marketing reasons, the company said.)

"Our software shares a single common code base. This technology is built to work together," he said.

The new version of WebLogic also features a greatly expanded role for its WebLogic Workshop development tool, which can now be used to build custom Java applications as well as WebLogic Portal applications. Previously it was only used for the development of Web services, BEA said.

This more integrated WebLogic reflects a focus on application integration rather than just software development, said BEA's chief marketing officer, Tod Nielsen. "We believe that integration and development will become one," he said. "All integration projects have some development aspect to them, and all development projects have some integration aspect to them."

As well as continuing to support the emerging Web services standards, BEA will focus on ease of deployment and application security as WebLogic evolves, Nielsen said. The company is currently working on integrating the software it picked up in its February acquisition of security management vendor CrossLogix Inc., he said in an interview after the event.

"We are absolutely expanding our mark to be much more than just an application server," he said.

One BEA customer has bought into BEA's vision. Virgin Mobile USA LLC has been using WebLogic to build both an application server and a Web services infrastructure for its cellular telephone services. "For us it was a leap of faith to go to a combined integration and application environment," said Michael Parks, the CIO of Virgin, in an interview after he spoke at Monday's event.

The fact that WebLogic itself is now an integrated application was a selling point for Virgin, said Parks, who had also evaluated IBM Corp.'s WebSphere. The amount of integration work required to make the various parts of WebSphere work together, however, kept him away from IBM's software, he said. "WebSphere is not a product, it's a brand," he said.

Parks was an odd choice as reference customer for the launch of WebLogic 8.1, one analyst said. "The evidence the market needs to see is customers on 8.1," said David Zilkha, an analyst with the Greenwich, Connecticut, investment firm Shumway Capital Partners LLC. "Today's reference customer was moving to 8.1 at the beginning of next year."

Virgin is currently using version 6.1 of the product, Parks said.

The big question for BEA's strategy as an integration vendor is whether or not its partner software vendors will work with BEA or try to solve the integration problem themselves, Zilkha said. "A lot of the application vendors are building integration into their applications, which is why the independent integration guys are suffering," he said. For BEA, "the big risk is that as an independent integration company, the market passes them by."

So far, BEA has done well on the partnership front, analyst said. "They have a really good ability to partner with some of the large vendors," said Ed A. Quiroz, a regulatory analyst with the State of California's Public Utilities Commission who attended the event. "If BEA can come up with a set of products that allows the development and maintenance of Web services, there's an opportunity there, " he added.

Approximately 100 partners have now issued statements supporting WebLogic 8.1, Nielsen said, and four of them were at the event, including Hewlett-Packard Co., which has trained 300 of its service professionals to support WebLogic 8.1, and Intel Corp., which is working on joint marketing programs for WebLogic on Intel systems.

Also Monday, Siebel Systems Inc. announced that it has developed three Siebel Business Integration Applications packages for BEA's WebLogic Integration 8.1 software in the communication, media, and energy industries.

Supply chain management software company Manugistics Group Inc. announced plans to deliver its suite of software on WebLogic 8.1, which would serve as the preferred application platform for Manugistics.

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