In a little more than a decade, BEA Systems built itself into a top middleware player and one of the leading lights in SOA. That’s a good thing. Revenues at BEA are soaring (up 19 percent in the latest quarter) and the company’s stock price rose around 50 percent in the last year. But playing in a hot space such as SOA is a classic instance of having the tiger by its tail. As CEO Alfred Chuang told InfoWorld Executive Editor at Large Eric Knorr in a recent interview, the company still needs to move aggressively to avoid being left high and dry by rapid shifts in the technology landscape.
InfoWorld: What do you think is the future of enterprise software and where does BEA fits into it?
Alfred Chuang: You will have vendors like us that will be selling platforms (and) application vendors that will be selling application components, yet they will be assembled on the fly by an end-user. End-users will be using a tool -- or they will be using templates or processes -- that will represent what their environment is. They can always go back to change the process on the fly, yet the components will continue to be usable within those processes.
One big advantage: You’ll be able to upgrade component functionality without affecting the process itself. Today, this is a total mess.
IW: Where do you think SaaS (software as a service) will fit in to this vision?
AC: Like when you rent a car, you don’t really care much about your car. When people drive a rent-a-car, they drive very differently from when they drive their own car. You see the craziest man driving around the hills of San Francisco in a Ford Taurus -- it’s likely to be me -- and I’m killing the brakes coming down the streets of San Francisco, flying over the hills, because I don’t give a crap. Now, if it’s my own car that I’m driving, it’s very different. I’ll be parking at the corner parking station and making sure nobody can possibly ding me.
There will be people who want full flexibility, so all they want is a rental car. There are people who will want ownership so badly ... that they will buy the software. SaaS will be able to attract small groups in large corporations, or small organizations, period. I think a successful company, including ourselves, even at the middleware layer, will have to offer both to people.
IW: So you’re not ruling out offering some of what BEA offers now as a service?
AC: Not only am I not ruling it out, we have to do it. I’m saying it’s not going to be 100 percent of the world.
IW: What about the effect of the open source model?