BEA upgrades app server with SOA, Web 2.0 capabilities

Interoperability with Microsoft's .Net and modular downloading are also added to the WebLogic Server Java application server

BEA Systems will fit its WebLogic Server Java application server with improvements geared to Web 2.0, SOA and interoperability with Microsoft's .Net platform, the company said at the BEAWorld San Francisco conference on Wednesday.

WebLogic Server 10.3 also features a new modular approach in which users can selectively download only components they want. The upgrade will be offered as a technology preview this fall with general availability set for next year.

The application server's Web 2.0 capabilities are enabled through enhanced support for AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and Adobe Flex, said Blake Connell, director of product marketing for WebLogic Server. AJAX provides for a dynamic element to Web applications that is identified with Web 2.0, Connell said.

Specifically, a publish-and-subscribe engine within WebLogic Server will provide live updates to AJAX and Flex clients. The engine offers a persistent connection to a rich client, Connell said. BEA this week also announced an alliance with Adobe in which evaluation of copies of WebLogic Server will be featured with Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite, the server component for Flex.

In the SOA realm, WebLogic Server 10.3 backs SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) and improvements to the Java API for XML Web Services.

"The big point in SOA is support for SAML 2.0, which provides Web single sign-on," Connell said.

"SAML enables people to sign on securely with a Web client and then have access to other systems without having to keep re-logging in," Connell added.

Java API for XML Web Services, meanwhile, is the specification used for writing Web services capabilities on top of the application server, he said.

To accommodate .Net applications, WebLogic Server 10.3 will feature a JMS (Java Message Service) C# client. With this component, users who have deployed .Net systems but want to standardize on JMS as a messaging backbone can do that, Connell said.

Leveraging BEA's microServices Architecture, version 10.3 allows for componentizing of WebLogic Server. For example, users could leave out the Java development kit or Enterprise JavaBeans and JMS capabilities if they do not need these, Connell said.

"You save megabytes in download size," he said.

Java Platform Standard Edition 6 is featured WebLogic Server 10.3, providing for better performance. "This is the underlying Java implementation upon which WebLogic Server sits on," Connell said.

Also featured in version 10.3 is backing for the Spring 2.1 Java application framework and Java Persistence API for storing and retrieving application objects in a database.

In other happenings at the conference Wednesday, BEA's Bruce Graham, vice president of consulting, likened the year 2007 to 1997, when now-giant companies like eBay and were just getting started. BEA also was in its infancy, he said.

"2007 seems to me to be a watershed year," Graham said. Like 1997, young computer hackers are making lots of money and showing up on magazine covers. New companies are emerging with new business models like Wikipedia, YouTube, and Facebook, he said.

"There's a wave of innovation occurring, just like 1997," Graham said.

Companies now must leverage IT assets to provide a competitive advantage, said Graham. He described SOA, business process management, and enterprise social networks as three preeminent waves of technology that have arisen in response to this need.

Also at the conference this week, BEA Systems said it plans to enable its enterprise service bus and portal software products to run as virtual appliances next year.

The AquaLogic Service Bus and WebLogic Portal products will run directly in virtualized environments such VMWare. Under the model being deployed by BEA, enterprise applications and supporting infrastructure can be deployed independent of the underlying server and operating system.

This enables SOA services to be treated as virtual appliances that can be deployed wherever needed, representing a major shift in the software industry, the company said.

BEA's virtual appliance plan is expected to be extended to other components of its Enterprise 360 platform as well, as part of the company's Liquid Enterprise strategy.

The virtual appliance plan is being eyed for BEA products that have a volatile workload, said Guy Churchward, BEA vice president for WebLogic Products.

BEA has begun offering an instance-based pricing model as part of its virtual appliance strategy, in which the customer pays based on how many instances of software are being deployed, rather than basing pricing the number of CPUs. The company has implemented this strategy with the WebLogic Server -- Virtual Edition variant of its application server.