BEA Systems Inc. put two stakes in the ground last week with the announcement of a service infrastructure product family called AquaLogic; it separated what it calls the "service infrastructure" from the application infrastructure, thereby broadening its reach beyond the Java camp, according to industry analysts.
The service infrastructure is a key part of what BEA calls its Enterprise Liquid Assets vision for flowing processes and information across Java and Microsoft .NET platforms. AquaLogic features BEA's new Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), formerly code-named Quicksilver, as well as repackages and upgrades some existing products.
BEA's vision for a service-oriented architecture (SOA) "is very much in line with the rest of industry, however, there's one important difference -- the service infrastructure is a standalone from the application infrastructure," said Yefim V. Natis, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "That's visionary and that's different."
By separating those stacks, BEA "is participating in a trend I've termed 'open choice' in the way they are supporting J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition], [Microsoft] .NET, [SAP] NetWeaver and others," said Dennis Byron, vice president, business process automation and deployment, at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "It's a recognition they have to go broader; it's a good move."
AquaLogic and WebLogic, BEA's J2EE application server, target different users, said Bill Roth, vice president of product marketing at BEA, in San Jose, Calif. "WebLogic is focused on developers. AquaLogic is focused on application specialists and architects, people who want to work at a higher level."
And unlike WebLogic, AquaLogic does not presuppose Java, Roth said. "This is our move to do something in addition to Java." AquaLogic is "focused on XML and XML-related technologies that allow the creation of a business flow."
The AquaLogic family is expected to consist of six product lines: messaging, data integration, security, process, portal and composition. BEA announced four products for the first three of these lines.
The BEA AquaLogic Service Bus, which will be available this summer, "converges the ESB with Web services management," Roth said.
The AquaLogic announcement "is really the rollout of the Enterprise Service Bus," IDC's Byron said. "It's the delivery of a very important product. Equally important, it's the foundation of these other things [messaging, data integration]."
Also in the messaging line is BEA AquaLogic Service Registry, which BEA is offering through an OEM arrangement with Systinet Corp., in Burlington, Mass.
BEA also unveiled BEA AquaLogic Data Services Platform (formerly Liquid Data). According to Roth, the platform features real-time rewrite capabilities, and improved meta data management and modeling. It will be generally available later this month. And BEA AquaLogic Enterprise Security (formerly WebLogic Enterprise Security), the first product in the security line, is available now. BEA plans to roll out the remaining three lines over time, as well as fill out the first three lines with additional products.
With AquaLogic, BEA is going up against the likes of IBM, SAP AG and Oracle Corp. in the battle to dominate the infrastructure layer. "The difference is the stated NetWeaver strategy is very much tied to application intellectual property," Byron said. "All of SAP's initial plans are around upgrading their base from ABAP [Advanced Business Application Programming, SAP's fourth-generation language] to NetWeaver. Oracle's unstated plan wants you to be an Oracle database user. BEA's strategy is more like IBM's. Both [IBM and BEA] consider the middleware layer the fulcrum of the next generation of IT."
BEA hopes to be "the Switzerland of software," Roth said. "What separates us is we're not doing this as a way to sell hardware, services or applications."
So will BEA's new "liquid assets" strategy turn out to be liquid gold for the company?
"BEA has been stagnating for about a year," Gartner's Natis said. "This is their move to resolve the problem; it's very important for them. It's safe to say that if in 12 months from now this initiative has failed, they're not going to have a chance for another big initiative."
BEA faces several challenges, Natis said. First, it has to deliver the ESB, he said. Second, he said, "they have to balance it so they don't undercut selling WebLogic. That will be difficult. There are challenges, but there is promise as well."