BEA just spent millions of dollars to develop and market a concept and a brand that will remake the company’s image. The concept, Think Liquid, and the brand, AquaLogic, “unifies what we do for a living…to bring customers simplicity and fluidity in enterprise computing,” said company co-founder and CEO Alfred Chuang during the rollout event in New York today. My colleague David Berlind podcasts his conversation today with Bill Roth, BEA vice president of product marketing, about the announcement.
I was struck by Chuang’s boast that BEA is 18 to 24 months ahead of the competition in offering a service infrastructure product for building applications, without coding, in SOA environments composed of services built on any platform—J2EE, .Net, SAP, Oracle, IBM, etc.
Pundits covering this space give BEA credit for taking this path, but some describe it mostly as a rebranding and integration of existing BEA and partner products. Competitor Andrew Dunning, director of product marketing at Plumtree, pointed out that not just his company, but SAP NetWeaver, IBM Workplace and Oracle’s Fusion are headed down the same path. “IBM, for example, with Workplace is closer to having a compositing environment than BEA, given the way they have integrated Rational into portal development environment. SAP at least as far a long as BEA with data integration,” Dunning said.
I spoke to Ori Inbar, vice president of product marketing for SAP's NetWeaver about BEA's AquaLogic. He didn't want to comment specifically about BEA's new launch or claims, but said SAP's approach to SOA, which is called Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA), allows business analysts to compose applications without coding using a visual tool that can consume services from any Web services-compliant platform. "I don't believe that BEA is promising to deliver applications--it's definitely focused on technology," Inbar said. "Next year we will add to NetWeaver a set of pre-packaged services, which will allow customers to use the platform to compose any application without needing to code or integrate or wrap existing functionality in Java or other language."
Being Switzerland, as well as singularly focused, gives BEA some advantages over its larger competitors delivering more comprehensive platforms. If you aren't an SAP or Oracle shop or want to deploy services across a broad heterogeneous environment, BEA can serve as an agnostic integrating and compositing platform. But as the software giants consolidate and deliver more full-blown no-coding, SOA platforms that can compose applications with services from any SOA-supporting platform, some of BEA’s aqua will evaporate. However, IDC forecasts that the global market for SOA-based software will reach $9 billion by 2009, with a 75-percent five-year annual growth rate. With that kind of activity, all boats, including BEA's (as an independent company or if it gets swallowed up in the ongoing consolidation frenzy), will ably float for the next several years.