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BEA dives into application assembly

Looking to boost sales and reach beyond its Java roots, the company plans to launch the AquaLogic product line.

BEA Systems on Thursday launched a new product line that the back-end software maker hopes will expand the company's audience and perk up sales.

At an event in New York City, the company introduced the offering, called AquaLogic, as well as a new marketing tagline: Think Liquid. Company CEO Alfred Chuang, Chief Technology Officer Mark Carges, and Chief Marketing Officer Marge Breya, who joined BEA late last year, hosted the launch.

The AquaLogic product line, which will be available this summer, is composed mainly of upgraded products already in the Java software company's portfolio.

The notion that BEA--as well as its competitors--is pursuing with AquaLogic is that a technical professional, such as a software architect, can assemble applications by connecting existing services. The software will use Web-services protocols to ease data sharing between applications and messaging software for program-to-program communications.

In contrast with BEA's existing WebLogic line, the AquaLogic software does not require a person to write Java code, thus making the task of building a business application substantially easier, said Bill Roth, director of product marketing at BEA.

"We believe we're out in front of the next market wave," Roth said.

The components of the AquaLogic line include standards-based messaging software, formerly code-named QuickSilver; a centralized security system and Web Services management software; and AquaLogic Data, XML-based data-access software for tapping into disparate data sources.

Some of the components within the AquaLogic line will be resold products from third parties. In particular, BEA has licensed a Web services registry from Systinet and formed partnerships with two Web services management companies, AmberPoint and SOA software.

The company will fill out the AquaLogic family over time with three additional products: AquaLogic Portal, Process and Composer, said Carges at the press conference on Thursday.

The Portal and Process products will be modifications of its existing WebLogic portal software and business-process integration software, but they will not require the user to write Java code, he said. Composer will act as a graphical tool to design applications and the movement of data between different applications, he said.

The AquaLogic software requires BEA's WebLogic Java application server, portal and integration software to run.

The product launch and marketing push are part of BEA's plans to reinvigorate the company and stimulate revenues.

In the middle of last year, the company saw the departure of a number of high-level technical executives, and revenue from new licenses has dropped for five consecutive quarters. In its last quarter, ended April 30 of this year, BEA reported a 35 percent increase in profits, although its license again fell slightly, year over year.

"BEA has to figure out how to scramble out of the hole they're in," said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at the Burton Group. "This is a company that's definitely in danger of falling off the pedestal."

The company still wields significant market influence, as it did over the past five years, in setting Java and Web-services standards, Manes said. However, it does not have the same product breadth and, in some cases, completeness, as its main competitors, IBM and Oracle, she said.

Because of the complexity involved, Manes said, she was somewhat skeptical about the idea that technical professionals other than programmers, such as business analysts, would be able to build an application.

On AquaLogic, Manes said that BEA's move into standards-based messaging software, often called an enterprise service bus (ESB), will put pressure on standalone ESB vendors.

But overall, the product line introduction is "mostly rebranding," she said.