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BEA outlines Liquid Computing plan

Speaking at its customer conference, BEA Systems' CEO lays out plans for products such as messaging-based integration software and administration tools.

BEA Systems CEO Alfred Chuang sketched out the Java server software company's vision of flexible and adaptable computing systems on Tuesday.

Speaking at the company's eWorld customer conference in San Francisco, Chuang discussed BEA's Liquid Computing initiative, which serves as the design tenets for the company's ongoing product development.

Formerly code-named Project Sierra, the Liquid Computing plan will mean that BEA will invest in technologies that improve compatibility between BEA's software and other systems. BEA will also create tools to quickly create and modify Java applications, Chuang said.

Today's business applications are too rigid and difficult to change, he said. Overall, the cost of maintaining applications usually represents more than the upfront cost of purchasing the software and developing new applications.

"The biggest cost (of information technology) is the ongoing cost to manage, maintain and enhance these applications," Chuang said.

The use of modular computing designs and Web services in a services-oriented architecture, or SOA, introduces more flexibility into computing systems, Chuang said. BEA is also improving the management tools for running BEA applications.

Chuang said that a new product called "Quicksilver" will improve compatibility between BEA's WebLogic applications and other systems (including Microsoft's .Net applications), other Java server software products (such as IBM's WebSphere), and other integration software from companies such as Tibco.

As previously reported, Quicksilver is integration software built around Web services protocols for transporting data between disparate systems. Quicksilver will also be part of a new administration console that will be in the next version of BEA's software, WebLogic 9. WebLogic 9 is expected to be released in the latter half of next year.

With Quicksilver, system administrators will be able to make changes to running applications without having to write code and view how systems are running, company executives said.

In addition, BEA introduced WebLogic Process Edition on Tuesday. The company called the new product an extension to its WebLogic server software, which is used to run business applications written in Java. Process Edition will include so-called business process management development tools, which are used to build Java applications that automate multistep business processes for several different systems, BEA said.

BEA also announced today that its open-source initiative, known as Beehive, has been accepted as a project within the Apache Foundation. BEA has submitted the component development model linked to its WebLogic Workshop development to Apache, which will allow applications written using the Beehive tools to run on different Java application servers, including Tomcat.

One analyst said that Quicksilver indicates that BEA has shifted its technical approach from a company that puts Java at the center of all product development to one that gives equal footing to other technologies, such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), Web services and .Net.

"As far as BEA is concerned, this is an inflection point for them, with XML becoming much more important than Java itself. That's new for them," RedMonk analyst James Governor said.

The Liquid Computing results of Project Sierra will be incorporated into WebLogic 9 and the follow-on version, Chuang said during a press briefing on Tuesday. He also said that BEA has set its sights on increasing its annual revenue from its current $1 billion to $3 billion within five years.

"We are the perfect size to be the ultimate innovator in the marketplace," he said.

Chuang said that BEA intends to boost its presence in India and China gradually over the next few years. Right now, BEA sends very little technical work overseas.

Chuang also touched on a project called Alchemy coming from BEA's advanced technologies labs. Led by BEA's chief architect, Adam Bosworth, the Alchemy effort underlies BEA's plans to simplify the process of building mobile applications.

Hewlett-Packard's chief strategy and technology officer, Shane Robison, took the stage after Chuang to say HP and BEA will extend their existing partnership. The companies will improve integration of HP's OpenView management software and BEA's WebLogic software. HP, which does not have its own line of Java software, is BEA's most significant consulting partner for building business applications on WebLogic.

HP said it has boosted its consulting expertise in services-oriented architectures to about 2,000 professionals. The company also said that its management software, gained through the acquisition of Talking Blocks last year, is tuned for managing services-oriented architectures.

Robison also sketched out the company's "blueprint" for how companies should build and run services-oriented applications. He said HP will further detail the plan, used with companies in current consulting engagements, at its customer conference in June.