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12/19/2005
05:29 PM
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In Focus: BEA Strategy Goes Well Beyond the Portal

Add BEA to the list of big vendors bundling the basics of content management, collaboration, search and process management into its infrastructure software.



Add BEA to the list of big vendors bundling the basics of content management, collaboration, search and process management into its infrastructure software. BEA will deliver the capabilities over the coming year as it brings together its WebLogic Portal and recently acquired Plumtree Corporate Portal (now rebranded as the AquaLogic Interaction), and it's all part of a broader service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy that goes well beyond the portal.

BEA's portal strategy, laid out on December 7, is aimed primarily at reassuring the more than 700 Plumtree customers and thousands of WebLogic customers that it has a clear vision for moving its two disparate portals toward a unified future. The first phase of that roadmap will see interoperable portlets and page elements built on the JSR 168 (Java specification) and WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets) standards by mid-2006. WebLogic and AquaLogic Interaction portals both will be able to consume the resulting WSRP-compliant portlets.

In the project's second phase, to be completed in the second half of 2006, capabilities including collaboration, search, distributed publishing and content usage analytics will be turned into common services. Many of these capabilities were already available in the former Plumtree product, but as services they will be consumable not only in both the WebLogic and AquaLogic Interaction portals but in any Web-based application or environment.

"We see these as valuable activity services, and we'd like to see them leveraged outside the context of the portals," says Jay Simons, director of product marketing at BEA.

Services could be used to support collaboration spaces, manage documents, index and search repositories or build composite applications and processes, with interfaces delivered in the context of the portal or other environments.

Eager not to rattle content management search and business process management vendors--many of which are partnered with BEA on the app server front--Simons equivocates that these services won't replace robust standalone products. "A pharmaceutical company isn't going to tear out Documentum and replace it with the content services we're planning to deliver," Simons explains.

A niche and highly regulated pharma scenario is one thing, but what about routine document management and basic routing and workflow? BEA is clearly on track to join rivals including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP in bundling document, content and process capabilities into its service-oriented infrastructure. Whether it's Microsoft's Vista operating system and SharePoint Portal Services, Oracle's Content Services, SAP NetWeaver or, now, BEA's services plans, they're all moving toward (or already delivering) content management, search and workflow services.

Perhaps the most telling detail in BEA's recent announcement is its plan to release three new products by the end of 2006. The first product, Project "Runner," will be an engine that supports the creation of composite applications by unifying and integrating services, including those set for release in phase two (including usage analytics, security and ID management, content management, collaboration, search and workflow). Project "Holland" is set to deliver an enterprise wiki-style environment that will enable business users and nondevelopers to create collaborative workspaces, group pages and portal communities enabled with shared and reusable data connectors and workflows. And Project "Graffiti" is a knowledge management system that will spider content and let users classify information using their own tags (blog and social-networking style) to support information discovery. These plans have content- and process-enablement written all over them, with a dollop of Web content management and knowledge management to boot.

BEA's longest term plans call for a third phase in 2007 that will unify the back-end infrastructures of the WebLogic and AquaLogic Interaction portals. That single environment will be cross-platform and support multiple application servers, including Microsoft .Net, IBM WebSphere and Tomcat as well as BEA's own app server.

It's all promise and far from market-ready today, but I'm guessing that by 2007 the portal implications will be almost secondary. The grander scheme is the services strategy. Content management, collaboration, search, workflow, security and ID management will be leading lights in a longer list of enabling services for any style of composite application or process an enterprise might demand.

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