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by Judith Hurwitz

BEA’s Top Down Strategy for Dynamic Response

Oct 10, 20036 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

It is an interesting time in the transition of the software industry. A myriad of companies are rearchitecting their IT infrastructure offerings to make them more modular, more component-based and more flexible. It is important for CIOs to understand how companies with large customer bases and deep technology are making the transition from traditional architectures to service oriented architectures that support the notion of

“Dynamic Response”. Specifically, Dynamic Response Environments are a combination of a flexible, standards-based infrastructure and software-based services that can plug into the infrastructure to create a dynamic, real-time computing environment. Dynamically responsive organizations are able to leverage their existing investment in IT resources so that they can react quickly and effectively to changing business initiatives and obstacles. In this column, I will discuss how BEA is transforming itself in response to this sea change.

BEA’s success as a software company was based on two platforms: an application server and a high-end transaction monitor. The company itself was founded as a composite of technologies it acquired. BEA was able to ride the success of both the Tuxedo transaction monitoring platform as well as the early success of WebLogic, as the premier application server. But times are changing as BEA has now found itself sandwiched between IBM at the high end and Microsoft at the low end. Therefore, the real challenge for BEA is to evolve its strategy into a dynamic response model.

What BEA has been leveraging its installed base and create a business integration framework based on the WebLogic environment as well as the middleware platform from its Tuxedo legacy. It has made strategic acquisitions such as Liquid Data to shore up its data management platform. Like its competitors, BEA is jumping on the Dynamic Response bandwagon. It is positioning itself against IBM primarily and to some extent against SAP. Unlike these two platform vendors, BEA is taking a unique direction by creating a virtual corporation model with HP. For example, BEA leverages and tightly integrates with HP’s Openview systems management platform, while HP uses BEA’s middleware stack as though it were its own.

BEA and Dynamic Response

The foundation of BEA’s approach to Dynamic Response is its focus on business process integration – both at the logic and the data levels. To support this, BEA provides a virtual data access layer that includes the support for meta data. Meta data support is critical if organizations are to successfully integrate data across isolated stove-piped application silos with the correct business context. BEA believes that this top-down approach will give them credibility with business customers that need to create data integration across these stove-piped applications.

To achieve this goal, BEA has created what it calls the WebLogic Workshop environment which is intended to enable customers to build business services that can be leveraged to create composite applications. The focus, therefore, is on a declarative rather than a programmatic environment. This supports the notion that what businesses want to do is to link the right business services together to create dynamic composite applications “on the fly” when the need arises. Again, there is a strong focus around business process management.

Dynamic Response Components

Another part of BEA’s strategy is to create a unified platform based on a single architecture that leverages J2EE. This is the foundation of BEA’s workshop product: it is intended to help customers design, develop, and deploy web services (defined as a service oriented architecture). The workshop creates an application framework that is built with J2EE but does not require developers to know how to program with J2EE. Therefore, BEA has introduced a visual design environment that will enable customers to use whatever development platform they are comfortable with – even Cobol. From a customer value perspective, it is advantageous to leverage existing skills rather than retraining programmers who already have critical business knowledge.

For areas where BEA is not developing functionality, it is offering APIs to link its workshop to third party solutions and enablers. Security is one of the key areas where BEA does not have its own deep functionality – it relies on third parties. While published APIs are important, there are areas, such as security and other management capabilities that BEA will have to invest in for the future in order to have a more seamless offering to support customer architectural requirements .

To provide customers with composite applications, BEA relies on its portal framework as a front end. This is a traditional portal framework, meaning that the integration is done on the screen only and there is little interaction among components on the screen. While this is an acceptable starting point, BEA will have to move towards provide a more robust level of composite applications integration.

Will the strategy succeed?

BEA’s approach is a sound one. It is leveraging the technology platform that has made it successful over the past decade. It is moving up the technology stack in order to abstract the complexity of building applications that are composites of business services. Therefore, the goal is to have a modular environment that will enable the business analyst to link the right services together in a well-architected framework so that new composite applications can be developed more easily. BEA seems to understand the importance of context of data and is spending considerable energy working on meta data mapping and enabling a well thought out business process focus.

Partnerships are clearly an important part of BEA’s strategy. Since it does not have the size and financial resources of IBM or Microsoft, it must have strong partnerships. The HP partnership which initially got off to a rocky start is extremely important for both companies. The power of this relationship is underestimated by customers and competitors. As two independent companies, HP is able to leverage the strength of BEA’s middleware; likewise, BEA needs HP’s sales channel and services organization as part of its future growth strategy. It is not easy to create a symbiotic relationship that works, but BEA and HP seem to have come to a reasonable understanding that works for both of them.

BEA is on the right track towards creating a platform for Dynamic Response. It is able to build on its technology legacy to create a forward-looking platform. It has the challenge, however, of differentiating itself from its major competitors&IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Fujitsu (which is making a strong play for this market as well) plus a myriad of startups trying to leapfrog the competition. If BEA continues to evolve its platform, adding more capabilities to create a top-down business process driven platform, it could continue to be mature into an important player in Dynamic Response.