BEA unveils service software family

BEA Systems is fighting to secure its place among larger software rivals IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, while at the same time battling Wall Street doubts that the software maker can execute the financial turnaround it needs.

BEA earlier this month unveiled a new product direction during a high-profile launch event at New York City's Nasdaq MarketSite. The star of the show was BEA's AquaLogic platform, which is designed to provide customers with tools for building a service-oriented architecture (SOA ) in heterogeneous computing environments, including .Net, Java and mainframe systems. BEA's road map includes products for composing reusable software services, along with products for integrating, securing and managing those services.

BEA is billing its AquaLogic products as "service infrastructure" software, as opposed to the application infrastructure products it has focused on in the past. BEA's flagship offering has been its WebLogic Platform, a suite built around the WebLogic Application Server.

"In an SOA you're trying to build composite services and you don't really care about the underlying application infrastructure. You should be able to build a composite service whether it's on Java, .Net, or a mainframe, and it should still work," says Ron Schmelzer, a senior analyst at ZapThink.

What's particularly significant about the AquaLogic launch is that it de-emphasizes BEA's focus on Java, Schmelzer says. "BEA is acknowledging that it can't afford to focus only on the Java developer. A year ago, BEA was still talking about SOA like it was a Java thing."

It's tough for vendors such as IBM and Microsoft to claim similar openness, he says. "I don't know if IBM would ever directly support .Net, or Microsoft would ever directly support Java. There could be interoperability, which means they can deal with situations of heterogeneity. But they don't assume heterogeneity - they would much rather there be some homogeneity. It seems like this new BEA product set is going to assume heterogeneity," Schmelzer says.

To flesh out AquaLogic, BEA is repackaging old technologies and developing some new ones. The AquaLogic platform combines six product lines: messaging, data, security, process, portal and composer.

Three of the product lines will have software available within the next few months. The messaging family will initially include the AquaLogic Service Bus for SOA management and the AquaLogic Service Registry for discovering and publishing services. The data family will get its start with AquaLogic Data Services Platform, which provides access to data from disparate sources. Security will include AquaLogic Enterprise Security, which centralizes application security services and policy controls.

Later, BEA will fill out the AquaLogic portfolio with composer, portal and process product lines.

One WebLogic customer at the Nasdaq event, John Peebles, said Cendant Car Rental Group is using BEA's software to help it link its various brands together through shared back-office systems.

"It allows us to get new applications out much more quickly, because we have a common infrastructure," said Peebles, who is vice president of online marketing at the Parsippany, N.J., company that operates the Avis and Budget car rental brands.

"Right now, there are about 50 or so partners using our services model to connect to that same infrastructure," Peebles said. "It's very important to us to keep the brands very distinct, so the Web sites should never look like each other from the consumer perspective. But the way they process pickup dates, for example, is exactly the same."

Meanwhile, BEA is hoping the AquaLogic roll out will put it on the right track. Securities firm Bear Stearns last week downgraded its rating of BEA and lowered its earnings estimates for the vendor, citing among the reasons for the downgrade a lack of conviction that current management can pull off a turnaround.

In addition, BEA's senior management team has weathered a lot of turnover in recent months, including the departure of its CTO and chief software architect.

However the turnover has not been entirely bad for the company, Schmelzer points out. Industry scuttlebutt suggests the executives who left were in favor of keeping BEA focused on Java only, he says.

AquaLogic could potentially give BEA the new lease on life it needs, but whether it will remains to be seen, Schmelzer says. A lot of the planned elements of AquaLogic are still 12 to 18 months away from shipping, so there are no guarantees. "It's still not clear if BEA will walk the walk," he says.

Service infrastructure lineup

BEA’s AquaLogic plans include six product lines, each encompassing multiple tools. At its recent launch event, BEA detailed the first four products on its new road map.
ProductProduct line StatusFunctionAvailabilityPrice
AquaLogic Service BusMessagingPreviously announced product formerly code-named Quicksilver.Management tool designed to help speed services deployment and simplify SOA management in heterogeneous environments.Summer 2005Up to $45,000 per CPU
AquaLogic Service RegistryMessagingNew product offered through an OEM deal with Systinet.Business services registry for publishing and discovering services, as well as tracking service usage.NowUndisclosed
AquaLogic Data Services PlatformDataPreviously announced product formerly called Liquid Data.Software for aggregating data from disparate enterprise sources and building reusable data services.Due by end of JuneStarts at $10,000 per CPU
AquaLogic Enterprise SecuritySecurityCurrent product formerly called WebLogic Enterprise Security.Software designed to allow shared security infrastructure and services to be reused across heterogeneous IT environments.NowStarts at $75,000 for the administration application and $10,000 per CPU for security service modules

Stacy Cowley, a correspondent with the IDG News Service, contributed to this story.

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