BEA Preps Software for E-Comm Battle

FRAMINGHAM (03/02/2000) - The newest software from BEA Systems Inc. targets enterprise customers who know the Web makes e-commerce harder, not easier.

A new version of BEA's Tuxedo online transaction processor, announced in February, now manages Web documents formatted in XML, which is becoming a standard for sharing application data and includes interfaces to advanced Internet security technology. The company also introduced a new package based on the WebLogic application server designed to make it easier for enterprise users to set up a Web commerce site, with ready-to-use software components called Enterprise Java Beans.

But some customers are worried that BEA's rush to stake its claim in the exploding e-commerce market could lead to a loss of focus and weaker customer support.

Big e-commerce sites have to solve many tough problems, such as linking with back-end databases, coordinating with business partners, managing high traffic volumes and keeping response times fast. BEA's Tuxedo transaction processor and WebLogic application server are intended to address those concerns.

"They're pushing so quickly into the e-commerce market, that they may ignore the core of what makes them great, which is the Tuxedo product," says Matthew Eberz, vice president of technology for ChoicePoint, Inc., an Alpharetta, Ga., company that supplies data and reports to businesses and government agencies.

ChoicePoint relies on Tuxedo to manage data requests from tens of thousands of customers, and even more in the future, as it creates Internet and intranet sites with BEA WebLogic, which will connect with the existing Tuxedo's transaction services. "Their software is extremely reliable, and they have excellent partners who can help you develop applications," Eberz says. "And BEA in the past has been very interested in working with customers on a personal basis to help you achieve your goals."

Judging by the company's revenue and profits, plenty of others agree. For the fiscal year ending Jan 31, revenue was $464 million, compared to $298 million the previous year, a 56 percent leap. BEA reported operating income of $51.4 million, compared to $22.2 million the previous year, a 131 percent increase.

The newest releases from BEA all demonstrate the company's focus on e-commerce.

BEA Tuxedo 7.1 has new interfaces that make it easier for customers to plug in third-party security software based on public-key infrastructure encryption.

Another key change lets Tuxedo "read" the tags in documents formatted in XML.

What this means, says Mark Carges, a BEA vice president, is that Tuxedo can decipher XML documents and route them to the appropriate servers or applications, just as it does other data types.

At the same time, XML documents are protected by Tuxedo's queuing mechanisms and transaction features.

Also new is a package called the WebLogic Commerce Server. This product incorporates the WebLogic application server, along with more than 80 ready-to-use Enterprise Java Beans, or software components, developed for e-commerce applications. Also included is a program that lets the Commerce Server personalize the information displayed and services accessed by users with Web browsers.

"The Commerce Server lets us use and build Enterprise Java Beans that we can deploy across many different applications," Eberz says. "And we're very interested in the personalization feature. Today, we have to clutter up the Web display so our customers can see everything we offer. In the future, they'll fill out a profile, and Commerce Server will serve up the appropriate subset of products they're interested in."

The company also unveiled an adapter kit for its eLink Integration Server, a software product that lets programs on WebLogic access data in enterprise applications such as SAP's R/3 suite. The adapter kit lets corporate IT groups build eLink interfaces to specialized or homegrown enterprise applications.

So far, BEA seems to be on the right track.

"There's a lot more in WebLogic that we're still not using yet," says Paul Friedman, chief architect at Supplybase. inc, a San Francisco software company that sells collaboration software based on BEA WebLogic. "We're interested in using the clustering feature to run on groups of servers and the Java Server Pages which create dynamic Web pages with back-end data. They're always a few steps ahead of us, which I like."

BEA: www.bea.com.

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