BEA, IBM Shore Up Development Offerings

ISVs play a major role

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Infrastructure rivals BEA Systems and IBM each will spice up their development and middleware offerings this week, relying heavily on recipes that seek to blend disparate software pieces into one. BEA is further unifying its WebLogic platter of offerings in an attempt to attract a wider stable of ISVs. For its part, IBM will be revamping its WebSphere Business Integration server and unveiling two new products that feature technologies gained in corporate acquisitions made last year.

Convergence will be king at BEA's eWorld show, the company's annual technology conference that kicks off Monday in Orlando, Fla. For about a year now, BEA has been talking up integration, touting a build-to-integrate development model that marries its WebLogic Integration server to its flagship WebLogic application server. At the show this week, BEA will go several steps further with the introduction of a unified platform, dubbed WebLogic 8.1, that natively ties together its application server, integration server, portal server and development toolkit.

As part its push, BEA is wooing ISVs with its new dev2dev subscription program. The first tier of the program is free and gives developers a 12-month trial of the development version of WebLogic Workshop. The Platform Edition of the program, priced at $599, adds technical support from BEA and quarterly software updates, among other things. The Tools Edition, priced at $4,659, features Borland's JBuilder WebLogic version.

BEA is aiming to deliver a development environment that goes beyond creating and running applications, but also supplies the interfaces, transformations and other elements needed for an app to interoperate with other systems. This way, for example, when an order management application is being written on the app server, the developer does not need to change environments to tie the app into the company's Siebel or SAP or other systems. Likewise, the portal product is also part of the unified package.

"A customer's main pain point in automating something like a customer management application is the need to go out and find a portal, workflow, EAI and B2B product. Now it's all in one," said Byron Sebastien, vice president and general manager for WebLogic Workshop and Portal.

Where BEA is sure to win points with ISVs lies with its overhaul of WebLogic Workshop tool set. In version 8.1, Workshop becomes the universal tools environment to build Java applications and also to construct integration code and design business processes. For example, a business analyst can use Workshop to design a graphical business process that transacts across a number of systems. Workshop will automatically generate the underlying Java code to create the application and to tie the new app to existing systems. Taking that a step further, this business process could be turned over to a developer, who working from the same UI and using the same tools palette, could build a related portal product.

"It exceeds what's out there, with the possible exception of [Microsoft's] Visual Studio," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Sterling, Va.-based Current Analysis.

Willett noted the reusable "controls" that can be deployed across all the pieces of WebLogic -- application server, integration platform, portal and toolset. These controls, written by either an end user developer or a third-party ISV, represent a chunk of a business process that can be stored, reconfigured and reused. Controls are accessible via one-click and can be dragged and dropped within the development environment, eliminating the need to write code from scratch for every function, said Willett.

BEA is courting ISV partners to deliver a portfolio of controls that can be shared among users.

For its part, IBM is rolling out products that represent the incorporation of technologies from its Holosofx and Crossworlds acquisitions. WebSphere Business Integration, Version 4.2, which they are announcing on Tuesday, melds various features from those two companies and eliminates redundancies in business process flow tools and workflow engines.

Like BEA, IBM is eyeing simpler integration through the dynamic generation of Java code, as well as through offering an environment that spans every point from the graphical modeling of a business process to the management of that process by a business executive.

To that end, IBM is unveiling a new Modeler product that lets business analysts graphically map out a process, such as a mortgage loan approval, and before runtime use a cost-analysis tool to determine the efficiency and ROI of the model.

In Version 4.2, WebSphere Business Integration server also adopts the tooling of IBM's Eclipse Framework, giving ISVs a consistent interface across products.

"If you are satisfied with your model design then you can store it as an artifact in our Eclipse repository, so you're able to reuse the model in other parts of your business," said Doug Brown, director of marketing for WebSphere Business Integration.

The other notable addition from IBM is WebSphere Business Integration Monitor, a product that provides a dashboard view of how a business process is performing. For example, a line of business person can check the dashboard for real-time information on how many customer orders are being processed in a given time span, for example.

"This is a big trend to have a separate monitoring that plays off the business process models that you've created," said Willett.

The new IBM products will be available this month.

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