BEA polishes Diamond platform

BEA polishes Diamond platform

BEA Systems is readying the next version of its WebLogic platform, dubbed Diamond, which is aimed at helping companies more easily build and deploy a services-oriented architecture.

BEA Systems is readying the next version of its WebLogic platform, dubbed Diamond, which is aimed at helping companies more easily build and deploy a services-oriented architecture. The Diamond suite -- also referred to as WebLogic Version 9.0 -- is due in beta form in January and expected to ship around mid-2005. The new platform will incorporate upgraded versions of BEA's core infrastructure software products, including its application server, integration software, portal and development runtime.

For example, WebLogic Server will gain uptime enhancements including the ability to upgrade or patch an application server without disrupting application server processes, says Vittorio Viarengo, vice president of product management and product strategy at BEA.

While SOAs and Web services can make it easier to tackle application integration, the technologies will bring new challenges, Viarengo says. "As companies move into SOAs, they will experience unprecedented requirements for uptime."

When application features are exposed as a service that other applications can utilize, the ramifications of a failure are compounded as more applications and users depend on those features, he says.

Management requirements, too, become greater with SOAs, Viarengo says. As service-enabled applications proliferate, companies will need to maintain a registry of available services and manage associated governance issues, such as rules that govern which departments can use a service and which departments are responsible for funding service maintenance.

To address management requirements, BEA is adding Quicksilver to its WebLogic stack. This module combines traditional message brokering with Web services management features -- two key aspects of SOAs, Viarengo says. "When we talk to customers, they don't talk about these problems in different buckets. They need to know what services are available, what the network load is, how services are performing and the security characteristics of those services. And they need to route and transform messages between systems. Quicksilver is like the traffic cop of a service-oriented architecture."

On the user front, the audience BEA is targeting is shifting to include a broader set of IT users. BEA in the past has been focused on serving developers, Viarengo says. "Now we're also paying attention to a new type of IT user, an administrator we call the application configurator."

Customers want to be able to perform more tasks from a management console without having to turn to developers for code, he says. The application configurator is someone who understands what an application and services are designed to do, and can configure metadata to make changes to an application's behavior without having to redeploy the application.

For example, a WebLogic user could change message-routing rules to have a subset of purchase orders -- such as all those pertaining to customers in Europe -- routed to a new processing application without making any changes to the front-end e-commerce application.

Analysts advice caution

While BEA readies its new release, analysts caution the spending environment remains challenging.

Goldman Sachs, in its recent evaluation of the infrastructure software market, said Web services, SOAs and business services are beginning to be adopted. But customers want to ease into these technologies.

Competition is a formidable challenge for BEA, according to RBC Capital Markets Corporation. "BEA Systems faces constant, growing and at times intense competition from large platform vendors such as IBM Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., SAP AG and Sun Microsystems Inc. as these companies look to encourage customers to commit to single-vendor architectures and advertise offers of similar functionality at heavily discounted pricing to encourage account lock-in," the firm wrote in a recent research note. -- Network World (US)

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