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BEA thinks smaller with WebLogic

The software maker is targeting departments within large companies with new versions of its flagship WebLogic application server.

BEA Systems on Tuesday will make a gambit for the departments of large customers that use its flagship WebLogic application server.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company will introduce two versions of WebLogic aimed at departments of roughly 10 to 50 people within large corporations. WebLogic is one of many Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-based application servers used by companies to build custom software applications. The two new products, called WebLogic Express and WebLogic Server Workgroup Edition, will be available Tuesday.

BEA?s main customers are large companies that need heavy-duty server software to ensure that applications can handle a high-volume of transactions or serve large numbers of Web pages. BEA?s major customers include online retailer and brokerage Charles Schwab.

The software maker is now seeking to stimulate sales within those large corporations by appealing to both technology chiefs and executives of business units, said Frazier Miller, director of product strategy at BEA. The company is also looking to package its products to be attractive to software resellers that customize and install applications based on J2EE servers.

BEA typically hasn't typically targeted departments that may need a simple Web application server to post documents to a group of perhaps 10 to 50 employees. But the company is seeing interest from chief information officers who want to standardize on the same Java application server for the more demanding back-office applications, as well as for smaller-scale department-level Web applications, Miller said.

"Corporate IT departments can lower their administrative and development costs if they can move to a single platform for their Web applications," Miller said. "We got a real demand from central IT folks to offer something affordable and effective for departments."

With the new plan, BEA is wading into highly competitive waters. The company?s strategy now mirrors that of IBM, which created an "express" package of its competing WebSphere product. IBM has said that medium-sized businesses are a key target for future investment and is looking to create express packages for more of its products.

Microsoft?s traditional strength with its Windows server operating system, which includes elements of an application server, has been with department-level customers. Also, open-source application servers are also garnering more attention, particularly with developers. JBoss, which develops and services an open source J2EE-compliant application server, earlier this month unveiled a program to entice BEA customers to port WebLogic applications to JBoss.

WebLogic Express, which is designed to only deliver Web pages, is priced starting at $694 per server and includes a customer support plan. With the Workgroup edition of WebLogic, business can create more complicated applications, based on the Enterprise Java Beans programming model, that fetch information from a corporate database. The price of WebLogic Workgroup is $4,000 per server processor and is limited to 20 people accessing the server.