Oracle, BEA battle over BPEL

Process orchestration technology is focus of feud

Officials from BEA Systems and Oracle this week waged a war of words over BPEL (Business Process Execution Language), the Web services-based specification for orchestration of processes in SOAs.

Oracle Senior Vice President Tod Nielsen, who was a marketing executive at BEA from 2001 until 2004, criticized his former employer during the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco on Monday.

"Today, BEA doesn’t have BPEL support," Nielsen said. But the Oracle BPEL Process Manager tool can be used with the BEA WebLogic Server application server. BPEL also has been known as WS-BPEL (Web Services BPEL).

A BEA official on Tuesday rejected the notion that the company does not support BPEL and noted that BEA was one of the companies that first proposed it, along with Microsoft and IBM. BEA supports BPEL in its WebLogic Integration  product, said the official, Bill Roth, BEA vice president of solutions and product marketing.

"I think our position is that frankly, Oracle's making too much of BPEL. Sure, it’s a useful way of orchestration. [But] the fact of the matter is that BPEL has been approved by absolutely no standards body," Roth said.

"We're grateful that the Oracle folks aren’t as familiar with our product as they should be," said Roth.

BPEL has been submitted to OASIS for its consideration as an official OASIS specification. A technical committee conference call pertaining to BPEL is scheduled for Wednesday, according to the OASIS Web site.

BEA also offers its own Java Process Definition technology for defining processes. BPEL differs in that it is based on XML, is multiplatform and not confined to Java, according to Roth.

"The important thing is [BPEL is] not done yet and while we look at BPEL as a promising development, Oracle users are taking a huge risk by developing on BPEL 1.1 and getting locked into something that they think is standard but isn't," Roth said. The feature set could change, he said.

Nielsen, who departed BEA amid a series of high-level exits from the company, said he left over disagreements on direction. While he believed BEA should have focused on factors such as channels and products, the company was worried about earnings-per-share, according to Nielsen.

"They were playing defense instead of offense, in my opinion," Nielsen said.

Roth rejected the claims. "I would say that our business remains strong," Roth said. The company believes it is making the right moves, Roth added.

Further criticizing BEA, Nielsen said, "Our view is that the core application server itself is becoming commoditized much like a virtual machine, so we don't think our business should be built on [the application server]," Nielsen said. A business should be built on delivering value to customers, he said. BEA has maintained its application server offers value and features above and beyond what is available in open source application servers.

BEA has its own BEAWorld show in Santa Clara, Calif. next week. In addition to extending support of open source frameworks, the company at the show is expected to shed more light on Project Bare Metal . This project is intended to enable Java Virtual Machines to run directly on computer hardware without the need for an operating system, thus boosting performance.

Despite the disagreements between BEA and Oracle, the companies both are intent on maintaining their application servers as commercial items to be sold, rather than as open source technologies to be given away.

"We’re still going to charge for ours," Nielsen said.

"There's a graveyard full of dead application servers," whose proponents thought they should be offered for free, said Nielsen. Bluestone was one example he cited.

BEA had once shown up on an Oracle list of companies that could be potential acquisitions.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.