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BEA keeping busy on software updates

It's a hive of activity at the e-business software maker, as it gets ready to release its latest application-server software--and stave off IBM for the lead in the market.

BEA Systems is updating a key piece of e-business software in hopes of re-establishing its market dominance.

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The company will this week release its latest application-server software, WebLogic Server 7.0, which allows companies to run e-commerce Web sites and process Web transactions. The new version will feature improved security, better support for Web services and new tools that will allow software developers to run and manage software that runs on top of the application server, BEA executives said.

After years of dominance in application-server market, BEA is now in a dead heat with IBM for the lead in the market, which reached $2.19 billion in sales in 2001. According to a recent study by Giga Information Group, BEA and IBM are now even with 34 percent market share, followed by Sun Microsystems with 7 percent, Oracle with 6 percent, Sybase at 4 percent, and Hewlett-Packard at 3 percent.

Eric Stahl, BEA's senior product marketing manager, said the new version of the application server has built-in support for Web services standards, allowing developers to quickly turn existing software into Web services software. Web services is an emerging way to build software, allowing businesses with different computing systems to conduct transactions.

The new version supports the latest Java standard for writing business software called Java 2 Enterprise Edition version 1.3. It also features new tools that make it easier and faster for programmers to get their software up and running on the application server.

Rather than having to code by hand, Stahl said the new version of WebLogic automates the creation of "deployment descriptors," a set of instructions that describes a piece of software and allows the application server to understand what to do with that software.

BEA's new application server also features better security and better administration tools, enabling programmers to better manage a cluster, or group, of application servers running at the same time, he said.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company plans to ship its new Java software development tool, WebLogic Workshop, this summer. BEA also will release its integrated family of e-business software products later this summer.

The company is building improved integration of its software family, including the application server; integration server, which connects a company's different business software together; and portal server, which allows a company to create a portal Web site for its employees or customers.