BEA bets on cutting-edge tech

The Java server software maker is readying a program to encourage adoption of a modern system design called services-oriented architectures. Also on tap: a mobile development project.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
BEA Systems is developing a program designed to promote usage of the company's Java server software among cutting-edge customers.

In the next few months, BEA will detail a program called Project Sierra, which includes customer education, product enhancements and technical guidelines, according to company executives. The overall goal of the program is to better demonstrate the business value of services-oriented architectures, a design approach meant to bring greater flexibility to corporate computing systems.

BEA is also working on an add-on to the company's WebLogic suite of Java server software and tools for building mobile applications, CNET News.com has learned. The mobile module, which is still in development, is designed to help programmers write Java programs that run on handheld devices in situations where there is intermittent wireless network access, according to company executives.

BEA is expected to provide a more thorough explanation of Project Sierra at the company's customer conference, called eWorld, in San Francisco in late May, according to a company representative. A discussion of BEA's vision for mobile computing at eWorld is also scheduled, according to the company.

BEA is in a battle with other development tool and middleware companies to become the preferred provider of software for building a services-oriented architecture, or SOA. Corporate customers are gradually implementing the SOA design approach, according to analysts.

Although the concept has been around for decades, adoption of SOAs is picking up for both business and technical reasons, according to analysts. Corporate customers are demanding more cost-efficient computing systems. The growing adoption of Web services, a set of XML-based protocols for easily exchanging information between disparate systems, makes the appropriate tooling for SOAs widely available as well.

With Sierra, BEA hopes to shift the discussion of SOAs from the technical "plumbing" needed to run business applications to focus instead on the business value of the technology, said Cornelius Willis, vice president of developer marketing at BEA.

"We've got to educate customers that it's not just about the plumbing. It's about how (SOAs) affect a business," Willis said.

Encouraging customers to adopt cutting-edge technologies is critical to BEA's product strategy. The company competes best with other Java software companies, such as IBM and Oracle, by appealing to customers that are relatively aggressive in their use of leading-edge technologies, Willis said.

"For us, it's not about 'good enough' technology. It's about having the highest level of adaptability and integration with existing applications to (deal with) changing business conditions," Willis said.

Project Sierra will include "patterns and best practices," or technical guidelines on how to build services-oriented applications. The company will also be enhancing its WebLogic Workshop development tool with more so-called business-process management capabilities, Willis said.

Business process management systems provide business analysts with visualization tools to model a business process and to monitor a business work flow. BEA currently sells some business-process management tools as part of its WebLogic Integration product line.

A BEA representative said Friday that the Project Sierra program will affect many of BEA's products.