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BEA Unveils AquaLogic Middleware

New service-oriented architecture platform will help businesses integrate applications internally and link those systems with business partners.
BEA Systems Thursday unveiled major additions to its line of middleware software designed to give businesses the means to internally link their corporate systems and connect those systems more easily with computers used by suppliers and business partners.

"One of the biggest problems in IT right now is getting one app to talk to another at the application level," said Bill Roth, BEA director of product marketing, in a pre-announcement interview. To help remedy that, BEA announced its AquaLogic product line, a series of offerings that provide a comprehensive management environment for creating so-called service-oriented architectures using open, Web-services standards and protocols.

BEA chairman and CEO Alfred Chuang said in an interview following the announcement that he believes the company's new Web-services management software will be embraced by large enterprises that create Web-services projects across a number of departments. "Just the number of versions [of a single Web-services project] a company can end up with can be chaotic," Chuang says.

That's partly because of the fervor with which businesses are implementing Web services, Chuang says. "I was surprised. I thought we would see gradual adoption but the fact is, companies are realizing tremendous business value from Web services and are embracing the technology."

Developers already use BEA's existing WebLogic products to create links between applications, but Roth said AquaLogic features tools aimed at higher-level users. "AquaLogic is focused on those users, such as an Oracle financial consultant or SAP consultant, who are more interested in configuring applications to create business value than they are in writing code," Roth said.

Because the AquaLogic line is intended to offer a highly automated environment for creating service-oriented architectures, Roth believes users can significantly cut integration costs. Roth said 75% of the cost of an average integration project arises from coding work.

AquaLogic covers three main product areas: a messaging environment featuring the AquaLogic Service Bus and UDDI-compliant Service Registry; a data product line offering the AquaLogic Data Services Platform; and security software marketed as the AquaLogic Enterprise Security product.

The service bus will handle data transformation and routing from one service to another while the Data Services Platform exposes data as a service and, as a result, lets users conduct federated queries capable of tapping data stored in conventional databases or in XML formats. "It provides a means to obtaining a sophisticated, single view of a customer," says Roth, who notes that hospitals could use the technology to create a more holistic view of patient records.

The security product "treats security as a service," Roth said. It allows users to add various security features, such as authentication methods and certification schemes, to the services they've created by building plug-ins. It also lets users build security services using a graphical interface.

BEA will continue to offer most of its existing WebLogic product line, Roth said. He noted that the AquaLogic Data Services platform was previously marketed under the company's Liquid Data line and that the AquaLogic Enterprise Security product was previously marketed as WebLogic Enterprise Security. Roth further noted that the AquaLogic Service Bus runs on the existing WebLogic execution engine "but the customer doesn't know they are running on the WebLogic server because it's black-boxed."

In creating what it says is a new, full-blown Web services/service-oriented architecture platform, BEA is taking on industry heavyweight IBM, which is attacking the same market -- estimated to grow to $9 billion by 2009 -- through its WebSphere offerings. Other players in the service-oriented architecture platform area, including Oracle and Microsoft, also have the market in their sights.

Analysts are lauding BEA for its technology efforts, but say that may not be enough for the company to carry the day in what's sure to be a hotly contested field. "BEA has one of the best code bases out there, but they have to sell into everybody else's base," says Gartner analyst Joanne Correia. She also notes that rivals like IBM and Oracle can bring a slew of integrated products and services to potential customers.

That's one reason why Fireman's Fund CIO Fred Matteson chose IBM's WebSphere product over BEA's WebLogic when he recently began upgrading the San Francisco-based insurance provider's computing infrastructure. Matteson says IBM's industry-specific business consulting services are what swayed him. "BEA will happily come in and sell you WebLogic but what we need is the connection of our technology to our business problems," he says. To help bolster its consulting capabilities, BEA on Thursday also is unveiling a marketing partnership with IT services company Computer Sciences Corp.

Chuang said he's confident BEA will win business in part because it focuses exclusively on integration technologies. "Nobody is going to want to buy everything from one vendor -- mixed environments are here to stay."

Earlier, at a press conference at the Nasdaq's New York City market site where AquaLogic was announced, Chuang hinted that BEA itself could be a consolidator in the software market. "There's a possibility that a bigger acquisition [for BEA] could happen down the road."

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