Oracle WebLogic App Server and OC4J: One Is 'Strategic' And One Isn't

Earlier this week, Oracle <a href="http://www.oracle.com/corporate/press/2008_aug/wls-nr-103.html">released</a> an upgrade to the WebLogic application server that the company acquired in its $8.5 billion merger with one-time rival BEA Systems four months ago.

Roger Smith, Contributor

August 15, 2008

3 Min Read

Earlier this week, Oracle released an upgrade to the WebLogic application server that the company acquired in its $8.5 billion merger with one-time rival BEA Systems four months ago.The Oracle WebLogic Server 10g R3 (WLS, for short) release came hard on the heels of the July 1, 2008, announcement of Oracle's Fusion Middleware strategy, which detailed plans for the integration of BEA products. "The accelerated release of Oracle WebLogic Server 10g R3 demonstrates our commitment to BEA customers to quickly deliver new integrations with Oracle Fusion Middleware," said Thomas Kurian, senior VP of Oracle Fusion Middleware. Does this mean Oracle's original lightweight app server known as OC4J will be put out to pasture? Read on.

Clarifying Kurian's remarks, Oracle's Mike Lehman says "WLS falls into the "Strategic" bucket and OC4J in the "Continue and Converge" bucket. Bottom line is that for the immediate term, both products continue development ... our next major release of Fusion Middleware -- Fusion Middleware 11 R1-- is where the two infrastructures converge, with WebLogic Server forming the core Java/JEE infrastructure, [mostly unchanged from the BEA offering], with capabilities added to it from OC4J including, amongst others, TopLink/EclipseLink [Object-Relational Mapping], Coherence [data grid] and formal certifications against a variety of Oracle capabilities (Real Application Clusters, Advanced Queuing, our Identity Management infrastructure, our Web Services Management infrastructure, etc.)."

Not everyone is eager to see the demise of OC4J. Jan Vissers's response on the ServerSide.com Enterprise Java community addressed the concerns of a lot of enterprise Java developers: "Hope Oracle does not mess things up this time ... like replacing a lightweight infrastructure with something [that's] heavyweight infrastructure, nailed down to some outdated Oracle database version, duct-taped [together]."

The heavyweight infrastructure Vissers refers to is Oracle's original homegrown J2EE Application Server offering, whose large footprint was only one of its many problems (others included difficulty to install, lack of stability, performance, and scalability). The 2001 acquisition of the fast and memory-efficient Orion application server and it's re-branding as Oracle Containers for Java (OC4J), as well as its integration into the Oracle application suite, is one of the main reasons Oracle has been able to achieve a respectable share of the application infrastructure market.

Oracle seems cognizant of some the concerns of enterprise Java developers like Vissers, since the new WLS release boasts a lighter-weight footprint, optional service startup, and faster startup, in addition to a new FastSwap feature that will be able to provide developers with speedy develop-debug-test cycles. Although Oracle clearly acquired BEA more for its customer base than for its technology, the company is obviously committed to the role of Java application servers within its enterprise architecture. Equally obvious, too, is that with the rapid adoption of Web 2.0 frameworks such as Rails in large numbers of IT shops committed to agile development, it may only be a matter of time before Oracle throws WLS its own retirement party.

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