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BEA muscles into process automation

Company's new product could be used to automate a multistep business function, such as handling an insurance claim.

BEA Systems released on Monday a new entrant to its product lineup for business process management, in a move that sharpens the competition in an already crowded field.

BEA WebLogic Server Process Edition--essentially a repackaging of components of some of the company's existing products--includes server software and tools for automating complex business processes. The product combines the company's WebLogic Java application server for running Java programs and specialized integration software for connecting discrete systems to perform a specific business workflow.

This process integration software can be used to automate a multistep business function, such as handling an insurance claim. BEA said the software will make it simpler for programmers to rapidly write workflow applications using Java and Web services.

BEA will price the software at $27,000 per processor. Until now, the highest-end edition of the company's WebLogic application server cost $17,000 per processor. Meanwhile, WebLogic Integration, which has the process automation software, costs $62,000 per processor. Software such as WebLogic Integration is used to transport data reliably between business applications, such as feeding customer data from a sales application to an order management system.

WebLogic Server Process Edition also includes BEA's Java development tool, called Workshop.

Company executives said the new product will put more competitive pressure on smaller, specialized makers of business process management software.

"People have been questioning the validity of spending what could be a lot of money for essentially a single-purpose piece of software," said Peter Linkin, senior director of product marketing at BEA.

Linkin said companies like BEA that sell full-featured infrastructure software suites are at an advantage because their business process management tools are designed to work with other components of the platform.

Other integration software companies that compete with BEA have sought to combine process automation functions with their existing wares.

Tibco, for example, earlier this year purchased workflow software company Staffware. The company is planning to release combined products starting next quarter.