BEA takes WebLogic on service-oriented path

The next version of WebLogic will launch BEA on a path towards service-oriented architecture: that is, tuning it to better match business processes

BEA will unveil the next version of its WebLogic middleware platform at its annual user conference in May as the first part of its move to a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

SOA refers to a collection of mainly XML-based services that can communicate with each other to help build business processes. It allows developers to create more powerful applications that bring many different parts of a business together, using technologies such as WSDL, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), and most recently the Business Process Execution Language, or BPEL, which BEA has been instrumental in driving through the standards bodies.

The next version of WebLogic will carry Sun's J2EE 1.4 certification and kick off the company's five-year plan to bring SOA to the fore in its products, said BEA chief technology officer Scott Diezten in an interview with ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

"We talk a lot today about how [WebLogic] 8.1 can be used to realise service-oriented architecture," said Diezten, "but there clearly are some missing bits, such as messaging and guaranteed delivery." Diezten said that service-oriented architecture is central to how BEA will position the next version, the name of which he would not divulge: "The obvious choices are 8.2, 8.5 to 9.0," he said. He declined to give more detail.

Every middleware vendor is currently trying to position their platform as an SOA, said Bola Rotibi, senior analyst at Ovum. "It is very much linked with Web services, but customers are also latching on that it is seen as a means of attaining agility and adding value to a business."

But, she warned, potential customers of any SOA product need to be aware that it is more about working with processes than just products. "People should be wary of hype. SOA is an approach, a framework. It permeates throughout the whole organisation, and is about how you do business."

"I think what they are trying to say is they are raising the game away from just the technology, make it more process-centric," she added. The challenge now, she said, will be for BEA to differentiate itself from the competition.

By way of an answer, Diezten said that BEA has a long history of collaborating with the Java community on standards and then differentiating on implementation. "It will be the same here, so even though we work with Microsoft and IBM on the standards, we will differentiate ourselves on things like how easy is it to deploy SOA, and do loose coupling. The Web is very loosely coupled architecture and there is a lot of talk about making XML loosely coupled, but a lot of applications don't help -- you end up with very tightly coupled applications, so if one goes down, it brings others down with it."