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The BEA Slayer?

The BEA Slayer?

There are numerous news groups and discussion lists on the topic of J2EE. I follow several regularly to track trends from the industry's news and views. The mindset I've seen over the past six months has been one of "topple the giant," a modern-day "Jack the Giant Slayer." In "Jack the Giant-Slayer," Jack, a young villager, steps up to the task of ridding the countryside of evil giants. Against all odds, he successfully slays the evil giants in various clever ways. Interestingly, there were three giants in the story. The application server market has three giants as well - BEA, IBM, and Oracle. In our modern-day fairy tale the part of Jack has been played by many, including open-source efforts such as JBoss and JONAS, the HP Application Server, and Sun's new Sun ONE J2EE AppServer 7.

While Jack has been played by different application servers, they all have one thing in common - they're free. JBoss and JONAS are free, open-source implementations of the J2EE specification, while the HP Application Server and the Sun ONE J2EE AppServer 7 are commercial servers bundled free with each vendor's operating system.

With the maturity of the J2EE specification and the advent of free implementations, it seems that BEA is poised to lose a game it has been winning for years. Surely, server license revenue will falter when competing with free implementations, right? Not so fast! These products may support the specifications, but I say, "Who cares?" BEA is no longer competing on this level - the level of standards support. BEA has raised the bar up to the level of the platform. To compete in today's market, you need to deliver a platform that is integrated seamlessly across portal and content management, core server functionality, security, integration, and administration. The free implementations currently support the major releases of the specification, but they're generally six months to a year behind and aren't production-worthy for another three months after standards support. Also, while open-source implementations can be made to play nice with each other, even when integrated they don't make up a platform. They don't have a single install, they don't have a single administration or security model, and each has its own form of administration, management, and configuration.

Bundled? Hah! A bundled server is one that nobody would buy in the first place, let alone one upon which you'd deploy a mission-critical application. Let me give you a historical perspective on bundling application servers. In my Year 2000 predictions in my column for Java Developer's Journal, I predicted there would be three application servers left standing by the end of 2000 - BEA, IBM, and Oracle. BEA would be standing because it's the best. IBM would hold a large market share because it is "Big Blue" and it had many loyal customers to convert from its heavy iron to new, sleek Web technologies. Oracle would be a close third because it was the most widely licensed database. By bundling its application server inside its database, Oracle would be able to persuade customers to use its app server rather than buy extra licenses from another vendor.

I was right about the giants, although Oracle didn't achieve that status until a year later when it licensed the Orion container. In any case, Oracle's bundling strategy didn't work. Even if a product comes bundled for free, no one is going to use it if it doesn't work well. Needless to say, I'm not sweating that HP and Sun are bundling their servers with their hardware.

This month in WLDJ we have more articles, content, and examples demonstrating BEA's WebLogic Platform, its easy administration, and its content management capabilities. This isn't an open-source effort discussion list about what WebLogic could become. These articles cover what WebLogic already is - a platform. At this stage of the game, BEA owns the platform, and I predict it'll be hard for the Jacks of the world to slay this giant.

More Stories By Jason Westra

Jason Westra is the CTO of Verge Technologies Group, Inc. (www.vergecorp.com). Verge is a Boulder, CO based firm specializing in eBusiness solutions with Enterprise JavaBeans.

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