Thinking Liquid in the round – understanding BEA (part 1)

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

For many years, BEA has been associated closely with the development of Java and particularly with J2EE application servers. But over the last couple of years, BEA has made a number of acquisitions that position them in the leading bunch in the BPMs and RFID Middleware arena. Founded in 1995, BEA has grown to a worldwide organisation with $1.4B revenue with over 4,000 employees and some 18,000 customers. I recently met with Martin Percival, their EMEA Senior Technical Evangelist, and Pam Crain, their EMEA AR Manager to get a better understanding of where BEA were heading.

BEA has a new tag line: Think liquid™. On first glance a number of images came to my mind—and most of them on a hot afternoon weren’t to do with software! Percival explained that BEA saw that there were a number of issues with today’s enterprises. These include:

  • Applications having been built to provide immediate solutions to departmental problems without regard for the wider organisation.
  • Applications in silos and very tightly coupled, as well as being function-driven.
  • Collaboration is hard.
  • Homogeneous vertical integration.

A Liquid Enterprise™ is one that is built for change, thus being agile and flexible so as to respond to market changes. Its applications, rather than being in silos, are composite applications which are loosely coupled driven by business processes. Collaboration is ingrained into the organisation and thus integration becomes heterogeneous as well as horizontal. Thus the Liquid Enterprise bridges the gap between people, processes and information, in that people, processes and information are connected horizontally, the business logic is separated from the applications to enable reuse and the IT assets of the organisation become loosely-coupled.

BEA Enterprise 360° combines their product technologies, people, best practices, and broad network of partners to deliver business value to their customers and is BEA’s approach for building a Liquid Enterprise. BEA sees the need for an SOA infrastructure comprising of an Enterprise Foundation with an Application Platform, support for real-time events, converged telecom support, virtualization and transaction processing. On top of this foundation are the applications which are service enabled through business services and data services controlled by a service integration layer. To complete the SOA infrastructure BEA sees the need for governance of the environment as well as a management and security service.

The next layer of the Business Process management layer has support for:

  • Modelling and simulation.
  • Deployment and execution.
  • Business activity management.
  • Real-time process optimisation.

The final layer is that of Enterprise Social Computing. This is all about knowledge management in a multi-channel commercial environment supplying real customer service. BEA see this layer being one where portals, collaboration and information management are the key requirements. It is also the layer where Web 2.0 is important.

Understanding that, in this new liquid world, BEA will need to provide more than just products, they have introduced Enterprise 360°. The first quadrant of this is BEA’s product portfolio. Their current product set which consists of three families of products:

  • BEA AquaLogic: the renamed Fuego product set acquired by BEA in early 2006.
  • BEA WebLogic: This not only includes the Application, Portal and Integration Server products but also the re-badged ConnecTerra RFID Edge Server product acquired in late 2005.
  • BEA Tuxedo: Backbone for mission-critical transaction processing systems.

But as BEA’s Crain put it there is more to life than technology, so the other three quadrants are concerned with best practices, partners and people. In terms of the former, this means BEA providing to its customers and partners SOA guidance as well as BPM discover and foundation services as well with Guardian™. As a value-added support offering for the WebLogic, AquaLogic and SIP servers, and RFID product family, Guardian is designed to automate the process of diagnosing domains for potential problems and can recommend solutions, including updates or maintenance packs. By finding problems before they occur, customers can reduce unplanned downtime and improve IT support staff productivity.

For partners, BEA has reorganised its partner support to give its customers better industry-specific expertise as well as validating partner produced solutions on its platform. It also has introduced the concept of BEA Certified Professionals. For people, read customers; here it is about providing centres of excellence for SOA as well as case studies and more customer-oriented approach.

So what does all this mean for BEA in the marketplace? Well. They have nailed their cards to the SOA paradigm and their product set definitely provides the support one should expect. BEA has always been seen as the software company without a DBMS product. I asked Percival and Crain how BEA answered this question. Percival said that for many customers and prospects this was not seen as an issue—in fact it was often seen as a benefit allowing the customer’s database policy to be separated from their decision on development and SOA. Percival went to say that their competitors certainly played this card! The two big acquisitions of ConnecTerra and Fuego have certainly been incorporated into the BEA product set. The figures I was given for revenue growth showed that for AquaLogic there has been doubling of license revenue each quarter for the last 5 quarters—very impressive!.

In Part 2, I look in more detail at BEA AquaLogic and in the final part I will look at BEA and Event Processing covering the RFID Edge Server and the new Event Server.