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BEA's Liquid dips deeper into data pool

BEA Systems' new product takes a crack at solving a problem that has plagued the tech industry for years: how to find and access data regardless of its format and its location on network.

BEA Systems on Monday released software that allows a business to exchange data and information across various applications on its network.

BEA Liquid Data for WebLogic allows people to search across corporate networks for e-mail, documents and spreadsheets related to a specific project, for instance. As previously reported, the software can pull information from virtually any data source, including databases, Extensible Markup Language (XML) files and Web applications.

Liquid Data is intended to give companies all the benefit of a data warehouse but with far less development time involved, said James Governor, an analyst with Illuminata. "It is designed to give you the functionality of a data mart, without the need to clean and extract data into a new repository for analysis."

The new product, based on XML technology, is available as an add-on to BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform, the software maker's flagship application server.

The company said Liquid Data could provide information from databases to front-office applications, such as customer self-service portals and supply chain applications, more quickly. BEA said the product is designed to provide a cost-effective, standard way to aggregate and link business information inside and outside security firewalls.

The new product takes a crack at solving a problem that has plagued the computer industry since its birth: how to quickly find and access data regardless of its format and its location on corporate network.

Liquid Data may also give BEA another tool to help it expand beyond its core application server software business. "As BEA moves beyond the application server, it needs new reasons (for customers) to buy the BEA platform," said Governor. "This kind of functionality is increasingly important."

Other major software makers--like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Sybase--are trying to solve this puzzle, as are newcomers like Alta Technology and Nimble Technology. The prize is a market that is expected to reach $7.5 billion in annual revenue in 2003.

For its part, IBM has demonstrated its Xperanto data-integration technology that will work in conjunction with its DB2 database.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is developing a new version of its SQL Server database, code-named Yukon, that integrates data from multiple sources and lets people query that data as if it were in one single database. That same technology is expected to be included next year in the next major version of the Windows operating system, code-named Longhorn.

Analysts believe that an acquisition Microsoft made in September may provide fodder in its pursuit to improve how users can search a network of servers, storage devices and desktop computers for specific information. The software giant bought peer-to-peer technology developer XDegrees, but gave little details about what it planned to do with the Mountain View, Calif.-based business.

BEA also announced that the consulting firm Cap Gemini Ernst & Young has agreed to co-market its services around BEA's new Liquid Data product.'s Mike Ricciuti contributed to this report.