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12/7/2004
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BEA Systems Dances At Oracle's Party

Company execs provide details of upcoming WebLogic 9.0.

BEA Systems Inc. chose the opening day of competitor Oracle's annual user conference in San Francisco to talk about its next version of the BEA WebLogic Application Server platform. BEA Systems frequently has been mentioned as Oracle's next acquisition target if its attempted takeover of PeopleSoft Inc. fails.

But BEA officials were the picture of nonchalance Monday as they discussed a product road map that stretched out, if not to infinity, then at least as far as the eye could see in a hotel room across the street from OpenWorld.

Alfred Chuang, CEO and chairman, said BEA expects to report new license revenue in excess of $100 million at the close of its fiscal year Jan. 31 and saw good prospects for the upcoming WebLogic Application Server 9.0, due in a downloadable beta version Dec. 16. "I can't comment on rumors in the marketplace," Chuang said. But he added, "We're very flattered that we're considered a target. Why acquire us if you're already the market-share leader?" In a speech at OpenWorld next door, Oracle chairman Jeff Henley claimed that Oracle was the "fastest growing" application server vendor with the largest installed base. Market researcher IDC has pointed out that Oracle bundles its application server with each database shipment, moving large numbers of units out the door but making it impossible to make direct comparisons of application server revenue. Chuang, however, cited IDC as naming BEA Systems as the leading application server vendor based on revenue. "We don't know what source Oracle uses," he added.

BEA has code-named WebLogic 9.0 "Diablo" and says it will help companies build Web services and service-oriented architectures. It implements the latest Web services standards, such as WS Security for secure Web services and WS-Reliable Messaging, which ensures message delivery between two systems that know little about each other.

Jeff Davies, director of software architecture at Covad Communications Group, is an early adopter of Diablo. He finds that the combination of its Java Messaging Service and WebLogic Integration, which establishes connections with enterprise resource planning applications and mainframe systems, "makes a pretty good enterprise service bus." An enterprise service bus is used to establish a services-oriented architecture. For applications to be converted into services, they need a messaging fabric or general messaging service between themselves and other applications and infrastructure systems. Many SOA's, for example, are built on top of IBM's WebSphere MQ, the vendor's message-queuing system.

BEA chief technology officer Mark Carges said one of the main thrusts of WebLogic 9.0 is to provide simplified administration capabilities. Version 9.0, for example, will allow an application to be upgraded as it runs. If the application is running on a cluster, it can be upgraded incrementally across the cluster without interruption of operations, he said. Likewise, the WebLogic application server itself will be upgradeable while running, something that wasn't true for earlier versions.

Version 9.0 is expected to be generally available in the summer of 2005.

Another upgrade in the works is BEA's WebLogic JRockit Java Virtual Machine for Intel-based servers. JRockit 5.0 becomes available Dec. 16. It requires less configuration and is designed to be simpler to use with higher performance.

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