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Post-Oracle: BEA gets back to SOA basics

BEA Systems Inc. is announcing it latest round of SOA upgrades, including a its AquaLogic Service Bus 3.0, which employs the SCA specification.

They're back.

After cancelling press briefings and maintaining a period of relative silence following the initial takeover bid by Oracle Corp. in October, BEA Systems Inc. is remerging with SOA and  ESB related product announcements this week. As it opens BEAWorld in Shanghai today, the company is announcing BEA AquaLogic Service Bus 3.0 as well as upgrades to the integration capabilities of its WebLogic product.

Since the service bus does a lot of lightweight process orchestration tying in to these services, we're able to export that information in SCA.
Paul Patrick
Vice President and Chief ArchitectBEA Systems Inc.

Bradley F. Shimmin, principal analyst for application infrastructure at Current Analysis LLC. said today's BEA announcements are not as important as what they signify following the rejection and expiration of Oracle's offer to buy BEA for $6.7 billion.

"These announcements center upon predictable and necessary enhancements, which on their own aren't key differentiators for BEA," Shimmin said. "However, given the significant distraction surrounding Oracle's failed acquisition attempt, these announcements serve a far more important function. They create a sense of stability and forward momentum."

When asked about the Oracle takeover attempt, Paul Patrick, vice president and chief architect at BEA Systems Inc. noted that as a public company BEA "is for sale every day." But since the Oracle bid expired, he said BEA's focus, as reflected in today's announcements, is on helping their customers with SOA implementations. He said he couldn't speculate of rumors about any sale or strategies to facilitate or avoid it.

"That's about all I can say about that," he added.

On the eve of the trade show in China, where he said BEA is the top vendor for SOA software, Patrick was focused on the new AquaLogic ESB and its support for Eclipse.

"One of the major things we're doing in our ESB product is taking what was previously a Web-based composition environment and building it out as a set of Eclipse-plug-ins in the Eclipse environment," he said.

Eclipse support solves one of the common complaints from developers who dislike having to switch tools as they work on various parts of the SOA infrastructure, Patrick said. It is also a way BEA has found to realize the Workspace 360 initiative it announced last year to provide developers with a seamless way to work on SOA projects, he added.

"What you're going to see coming out of all of the BEA announcements is this common theme around composition and the idea of using Eclipse as the basis to do that," he said.

Beyond Eclipse, Patrick said the new BEA ESB supports the  Service Component Architecture (SCA) specification currently moving through the standards process at OASIS. SCA is important, he said, because the original Web services standards,  SOAP and  WSDL, are not up to the job of keeping track of enterprise services in the enterprise so they can be reused in new applications.

"A lot of people talk about SOA in the enterprise and they talk about it as if in the enterprise every service will be shared by everybody for everything," Patrick said. "What we find is that's really not the case. The reality is that companies start SOA in a step-wise fashion and tend to start on a project-by-project basis. As a result they build services around a project. Those services tend to be optimized around a line of business. As SOA catches on they find the services that need to be shared are sitting in these lines of business."

To keep services from being lost in departmental applications, BEA is championing an approach called the service network, which leverages the enterprise service bus, the  registry/repository and SCA. It also extends Internet concepts to the SOA infrastructure so that Web services are brought together the way Web pages and applications are.

This way, domains, or neighborhoods in BEA terminology, can be united so SOA applications can reuse Web services.

"The bus can tie together different neighborhoods that have SOA enablement in them and only expose the services you want published," Patrick said. "That allows for load balancing based on policy and  SLAs [service level agreements]."

This process relies on the SCA specification, which Patrick said it robust enough for enterprise implementation although it is not an approved standard. Here the ESB carries part of the load for policy and governance that is usually thought of as part of the registry/repository functionality.

"Since the service bus does a lot of lightweight process orchestration tying in to these services, we're able to export that information in SCA," Patrick explained. "We can store that information in our AquaLogic Registry/Repository."

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This makes it possible for assemblies of Web services to be stored so developers do not have to resort to a piecemeal approach in finding services when composing applications, Patrick said.

All these ESB upgrades are helpful in getting BEA back on track after its run-in with Oracle, but Shimmin urges BEA to do more.

"My only suggestion is that on top of these announcements BEA also make its product roadmaps more visible and tangible, not just for customers and analysts, but for the industry as a whole," he said. "The company has many sweeping initiatives, most importantly Project Genesis and BEA Workspace 360, which are closely intertwined yet not clearly spelled out within the market."

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