BEA Systems Inc. is set to roll out new services Monday for customers who want to integrate their business applications, a move designed to help lift sales of a new suite of software products that BEA introduced last month.
Business Integration Assessment is the first consulting service from BEA geared specifically toward helping customers tie together applications, according to Tom Ashburn, BEA's president of worldwide services. It follows the release last month of WebLogic Platform 8.1, a suite of Java server software that BEA is pitching as an environment for applications integration.
For $21,000, BEA consultants will spend about five days on site with customers, helping them to figure out what the process of integration will entail and the best course to pursue, Ashburn said.
"Basically, we develop a blueprint of what you as a customer need. Then they can choose us to do the integration work for them, in which case we apply (the $21,000) to whatever we charge them to do the integration, or they may go and pick somebody else," he said.
BEA isn't trying build up a services business in its own right; the role of the services organization is to help the company sell more software, according to Ashburn. Just under half of BEA's revenue comes from selling services, with the majority from customer support, and it's not looking to grow that proportion, he said.
"I think we'll continue to run at about that rate. If we run higher it's because we haven't done our main job, which is to help sell more software licenses," he said.
BEA is a "software platform pure play" that relies heavily on consulting partners to implement its products for customers, so it's not surprising that it would downplay any ambitions in services, said Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"If you're going to launch a service offering, you'd better declare loud and clear that you don't want to build a services business, because you don't want to upset your consulting partners," he said.
At the same time, it's important for BEA to be able to show customers what they can do with the various elements of WebLogic Platform 8.1, he said. The suite includes an application server, portal server, integration server and developer environment. It competes with similar "platform" offerings from IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others.
"For a company like BEA, which is trying to expand its customer base and expand its presence among (existing) customers, there's a desire to go in and show that it offers more than just an application server for running thin-client apps," Schadler said. He noted that a raft of comparable services is already offered by IBM for its WebSphere customers.
BEA also expanded its online support offerings for customers who subscribe to its "mission-critical" support option. Customers can now chat online with support center staff. They can also generate reports that provide a history of their support calls, which some customers like to be able to see, according to Ashburn.
The mission-critical support service, which is not new, includes a number of support options including the services of a dedicated account manager. It's priced at $125,000 on top of BEA's standard support service fee, which typically costs 21 percent of the software license fee, Ashburn said.