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BEA boosts middleware line

The company announces M3, which will allow large firms to roll out new distributed applications linked to the Web and to older transactional business systems.

BEA Systems today debuted a long-awaited product intended to give it a boost in the fast-growing market for middleware technology.

As previously reported by CNET NEWS.COM, the company today announced M3, a product developed under the code name Iceberg that combines its Tuxedo middleware with MessageQ, a message queuing product, and object request broker technology it purchased from Digital Equipment last year.

M3 will allow large companies to roll out new distributed applications linked to both the Web and to older transactional business systems they rely on.

Several BEA customers, including telecommunications giant Ameritech and packaged application software vendor Mincom, took part in a New York City-based rollout of M3 today. Both companies are using M3 for internal projects.

Also, the company said a handful of tools vendors plan to support M3. The list includes Compuware, Dynasty, Rational Software, Symantec, and Visual Edge.

Transaction processing middleware has for years been used to manage data traffic on large mainframe and Unix-based systems. The software is designed to make sure business transactions--credit card orders, airline reservations, money transfers--don't get lost.

The software is becoming more important as companies begin to link back-end business applications to new Web-based e-commerce systems.

The strategy of combining three types of increasingly popular middleware will appeal to technology buyers currently evaluating the highly complex systems, and could help BEA in its bid to become a middleware kingpin.

"Customers are confused over which product to buy," said Karen Boucher, a vice president with the Standish Group. "This gives them one package to use in different environments. And, this gives them a way to support object systems. These products are intended to combine the reuse goodness of the object world with the robustness of TP monitors," she said.

One major hurdle for BEA is that M3 joins a list of similar products from more well-heeled competitors. IBM, for example, already ships a product called Component Broker that combines similar functions.

Microsoft is also making a play for a piece of the middleware market with a set of technologies based on its COM (component object model) technology.

The next iteration of COM, called COM+, will combine Microsoft's Transaction Server, Message Queue Server, and other middleware.

BEA's M3 will be priced at $395 per concurrent user.