Oracle Goes For BEA’s Jugular With New App Server

Offers competitive pricing, free migration for WebLogic customers

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Oracle Monday unveiled a new edition of its 9iAS Java application server and a new program aimed at stealing market share from competitor BEA Systems by offering a free switch from BEA to Oracle, executives said in a press conference.

Oracle 9iAS, Java Edition offers a low-cost option for midmarket customers that want full J2EE 1.3 support, including support for Enterprise JavaBeans, systems management and clustering, said Thomas Kurian, vice president of Oracle 9iAS development. The product, which includes five developer seats of Oracle's Java IDE JDeveloper, is priced at $5,000 per CPU.

Along with the new application server, Oracle is targeting existing BEA customers with a new Switch and Save program. Customers that have any instance of BEA WebLogic Server in their IT system can replace each server for free with Oracle 9iAS, Java Edition, Kurian said. The free license is permanent, he said.

Oracle will provide the services for switching customers to Oracle from BEA for free and also will give switching customers a 50 percent discount in services and technical support from Oracle for Oracle 9iAS, Kurian said.

Kurian and Mark Jarvis, Oracle's chief marketing officer, said many Oracle customers already are switching to Oracle's application server from BEA, but they did not cite specific data to back up that claim. Kurian said that the Switch and Save program is intended to "accelerate the trend that's already there.

"The market is consolidating, and the quicker we can accelerate that trend and the quicker we can put the pressure on BEA's core business, the better," Kurian said.

Oracle also has stepped up efforts to court solution providers and ISVs to implement and embed 9iAS, Jarvis said.

Kurian said the new edition offers a good opportunity for Oracle to boost its distribution of 9iAS through the channel to new and existing customers. "Because of the attractive pricing and enterprise capabilities, it offers an attractive product to channel partners to go to the midmarket as well as to departmental deployments," he said.

Oracle also is wooing ISVs to embed the new version of 9iAS and plans to unveil news surrounding the effort in a press conference Tuesday, Jarvis said.

Solution providers have told CRN that they have seen renewed interest from Oracle in partnering with them to distribute 9iAS. However, only customers already running an Oracle database or other Oracle applications currently are interested in implementing 9iAS, they said.

Jarvis said Oracle is targeting BEA rather than IBM,which analysts say are neck and neck for top market share in the Java application server market,because most BEA customers already run an Oracle database somewhere in their installation, whereas this is not always the case with IBM.

Switching from BEA to Oracle will provide BEA customers running an Oracle database seamless integration between 9iAS and the database, he said.

Both IBM and BEA offer entry-level application server offerings that are priced considerably lower than their full-scale products. In fact, BEA Monday also made a significant application server announcement, unveiling two new pricing packages for its WebLogic product that compete with IBM's WebSphere Application Server Express, unveiled last year to target midmarket customers.

BEA Monday cut the price of its WebLogic Express application server to $495 per CPU from $3,000 per CPU. WebLogic Express allows solution providers to build JSPs and servlets but does not support Enterprise JavaBeans, JMS or other high-level functions. BEA also Monday unveiled a Workgroup Edition of its application server for $4,000 per CPU, which can scale higher but still does not have full enterprise capabilities.

The full enterprise version of BEA's application server starts at $10,000 per CPU, with the price scaling up according to functionality.

IBM WebSphere Application Server Express costs $25 per user, or $2,000 per CPU, depending on how a customer wants to configure pricing. An enterprise-scale version of WebSphere starts at $8,000 per CPU.

Eric Stahl, director of product marketing for BEA WebLogic Server, said BEA does not feel threatened in any way by Oracle's plans to replace BEA WebLogic with Oracle 9i.

"BEA almost never sees Oracle in the sales cycle, as evidenced by their single-digit market share," said Stahl, director of product marketing for BEA WebLogic Server. "This announcement is a page from an old playbook of Oracle's as [the company has] previously announced similar competitive migration programs that to our knowledge have never produced any customers to take them up on the offer."

Similarly, John Swainson, general manager for the application and integration middleware division of IBM's software division, said he doesn't see the news affecting what he considers Oracle's lack of credibility in the application server market.

"Oracle has tried everyting in the book to get themselves established in application server market," Swainson told CRN in an exclusive interview. "The fact is, they actually have been trying to give their application server product away [bundled with 9i database] and have not had a huge amount of success. It's not clear to me that charging $5,000 for a product no one wants is going to be any more successful."

Oracle's Kurian stressed that Oracle's competitive offer is not targeting the Express products from BEA and IBM. Rather, Oracle wants to offer an enterprise-level Java application server at a price that undercuts comparable offerings from its rivals.

"We're not focused on competing with servlet and JSP engines," he said. "Rather, 9iAS, Java Edition is focused on offering a full-fledged, enterprise-scale Java application server for those who want to build mission-critical applications."

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