BEA Offers Roadmap

Although BEA Systems Inc. leads the market for J2EE application servers, some observers have marked BEA for death.

That’s because the market is shifting from pure server software to richer integration platforms from competitors like IBM, Oracle and Sun. But BEA’s slate of new development products shows the company has a clear roadmap for the future.

At its annual BEA eWorld conference in San Diego this week, BEA took the wraps off its first client-side development tool, Workshop, and announced other enhancements to its core application server, WebLogic, which runs on Windows servers among many other platforms.

Under the banner of WebLogic Platform 7.0, BEA rolled out new versions of its J2EE application server, enterprise portal, integration server, plus the Workshop integrated development environment (IDE) and Web services tools.

BEA also announced it would support its WebLogic application server on S/390 and zSeries mainframes. IBM offers its own application server, Websphere, which also runs on the mainframe.

WebLogic is written entirely in Java, allowing it to be easily ported from one architecture to another. “The version we run on the mainframe is exactly the same version as the version we run on other environments such as Solaris or Windows NT,” says Leon Baranovsky, director of product marketing at BEA.

With mainframe support, code written for WebLogic can run on platforms ranging from NT boxes to the zSeries. This expands BEA’s work to enter the Application Infrastructure market, which trades in toolsets allowing code to be written for a single unified platform that can operate on any hardware or operating system.

BEA’s first development tool is a significant step, Baranovsky says, in creating a true application infrastructure. Other new additions to the WebLogic family that extend its reach are security enhancements, an improved portal, and tools that tell administrators about the operation of an application.

WebLogic Workshop automates many of the processes involved in creating J2EE applications. The IDE offers wizards and graphical tools that reduce the complexity of calling J2EE or Web services functions, allowing developers with little J2EE expertise to rapidly create applications.

Baranovsky says bringing the power of J2EE to a greater developer pool is one of the main goals of Workshop. “There are many more application programmers out there than enterprise programmers,” he says.

Most developers have honed their skills in developing the internal logic to accomplish a program’s task, while enterprise and J2EE developers need to learn the intricacies of J2EE objects or specific details of getting one system to talk to another system. Workshop performs many of these duties for them.

Web services are another addition to the product family that is key to BEA’s future survival. Although Microsoft’s .NET may offer the only threat to J2EE, Web services offer the potential for a set of standard APIs for messaging between platforms. BEA’s Web services tools expose the processes on the application server as http-based services, making integration in heterogeneous environments easier.