BEA To Unwrap New Products, 'Liquid Computing' Vision at eWorld

Vendor will unveil BPM version of WebLogic, ESB at annual developer show
At its eWorld show in San Francisco next week BEA Systems plans to introduce its vision for building service-oriented architectures (SOAs), a new business process management (BPM) version of its WebLogic Server and a new project to build an enterprise service bus (ESB), CRN has learned.

Early Wednesday, BEA executives also disclosed that the software vendor is donating the application framework from its WebLogic Workshop tool to the open-source community under Project Beehive. The first implementation of Beehive running on the Tomcat Java servlet container from the Apache Software Foundation will be previewed at eWorld, Cornelius Willis, BEA's vice president of developer marketing, told CRN.

Over the past several months, BEA has said it would unveil its SOA vision at eWorld under a project code-named Sierra. Next week BEA plans to brand that vision Liquid Computing, according to partners familiar with the company's plans. BEA declined to comment about eWorld announcements prior to the show, which kicks off Monday.

BEA's Liquid Computing is similar to Hewlett-Packard's Adaptive Enterprise and IBM's On Demand strategies for delivering IT systems that are more efficient and can be dynamically updated and altered on the fly, and is based on three core tenants, sources said. The core concepts of the vision all have implications to improve the efficiency and adaptability of both the technology and the business requirements of an organization.

The first tenant of BEA's Liquid Computing strategy is enterprise compatibility, which leverages software standards to ensure technologies in a large system work together seamlessly, sources said. BEA also plans to add what it calls breakthrough productivity, which is aimed at making it as easy as possible for all developers who touch a system to build applications quickly and efficiently, to its product. Additionally, the Liquid Computing includes active adaptability, or the ability to change the business requirements of a system in minutes rather than hours or days.

Liquid Computing is a long-term strategy that BEA plans to execute over the next several years, thus the company does expect to have a specific product road map to deliver on the vision available immediately, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

SOAs allow applications and application components to run as services that can invoke other applications or components in a distributed system. The business goal of the architecture is to cut back on development, deployment and operational costs of IT systems.

Most in the industry believe an SOA is the next major development paradigm for IT systems, and all the leading software vendors are building or have already released software that enables the development and deployment of SOAs.

"BEA needs to stay ahead of the game in offering technology to fulfill the vision of corporate IT to build SOAs," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst with Current Analysis, Sterling, Va. "Long-term SOAs are all about cutting down on the costs of IT and allowing the business side to more easily make changes to respond to business conditions."

Chris Duda, manager of .Net services for Database Solutions, a Cherry Hill, N.J., systems integrator, said the strength of SOAs is the interoperability between disparate systems that they promise, which is why all the major vendors are supporting their development and deployment.

Also at eWorld, BEA plans to unwrap a new edition of its J2EE application server, called WebLogic Server, Process Edition, sources told CRN. The product is aimed at companies that do not need a full integration software suite, but who want to use WebLogic Service to do BPM.

WebLogic Server, Process Edition will include service orchestration and visual data mapping; however, message brokering, B2B integration software and adapters will have to be purchased separately, sources said. BEA aims to make the software available by late summer.

Sources said BEA also will unveil Project Quicksilver, its plan to build an enterprise service bus (ESB), next week. The standards-based software will enable both Java and non-Java applications to talk to each other in an IT system.

While most ESBs focus on messaging, BEA's Quicksilver project will go beyond that, sources said. While BEA's ESB will support the publish/subscribe messaging model across multiple messaging protocols, it also will include technology for Web services management, monitoring and reporting, as well as business activity monitoring (BAM) technology. BEA currently partners with Web services management software players such as Blue Titan to provide third-party support for WebLogic Platform.

Beehive and other open-source development efforts also will be highlighted at eWorld, sources said.

BEA executives have said that distributing WebLogic technology free to the development community is one of the key ways it plans to proliferate its software in the marketplace. BEA, which formerly was the J2EE application server market leader, has conceded that lead to IBM, which now has the No. 1 spot in the market, according to Gartner Group and other research firms. Winning developer mindshare to combat IBM is a key goal of BEA's going forward.

One BEA partner said Beehive was "very significant news" because it means BEA is trying to make its development environment the standard for Java developers, which would mean major visibility for BEA in the market.

"It looks like BEA is going after the open-source developers," said Kevin Holcom, chief architect of Atlanta-based solution provider Enterpulse. "This basically means that a developer can build an application on BEA Workshop and then deploy the application on any other application server for production. Basically, BEA is going after the development environment."

Solution provider Duda agreed that Beehive is a smart move for BEA in light of pressure from IBM.

"The fact that BEA has released their stuff as open source is a defensive strategic move to garner more support for their platform," Duda said. "You have to buy into WebSphere to get IBM's architecture; now I won't have to buy into BEA to interoperate with their stuff. That's a great strategic move, presuming it will lead to application server sales for them."

Barbara Darrow contributed to this story.