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BEA Seeks "Ubiquity" Through Open Source Community, Say Its Top Execs

Major donation of WebLogic Workshop runtime announced, and Java as a whole will gain, say two top BEA executives.

  • "Beehive" Now Officially an Open Source Project: Apache Beehive
  • "BEA Today Will Open-Source the WebLogic Workshop Application Development Framework"
  • Just two full working days after its stock crashed by 23 percent - its biggest drop in more than five years - BEA came out of the corner today fighting, with the announcement (already revealed by inside sources earlier today) that it was donating - to what CTO Scott Dietzen referred to as "Open Source Land" - the first open source application framework targeted at Java-based Web applications: "Project Beehive."

    "Project Beehive," as was reported earlier today by WLDJ, a sister publication to Web Services Journal, is the name BEA is giving to its release of the runtime of the application development framework from its WebLogic Workshop tool, including the controls in Workshop.

    Announcing the release to the world today from BEA's San Jose, CA, headquarters, CTO Dietzen emphasized that this was no sudden shift in BEA strategy just to buck stock market pressures. "We had planned long-term to announce Beehive before eWorld," he said. "This is a foundational piece [of BEA's future strategy] and this is the motivation for this announcement now: so that the Java commnnity has a chance to assimilate and see how it fits into everything before our user conference next week in San Francisco."

    "It fills a gap," Dietzen told an invited group of journalists, including Web Services Journal News Desk. "Java apps can now run on WebLogic and non-WebLogic Java containers - both competing products and open source offerings."

    "The bottom line," he continued, "is that Beehive is designed to accelerate the proliferation of Java by simplifying development."

    BEA's aim is with Beehive, Dietzen explained, is "to marry the best of BEA's innovational strength with the strength of Java."

    "Up until now leveraging Java came with some measure of prioprietary vendor lock-in," he conceded, reminding his audience that there were 40-odd vendors before J2EE came along.

    "Getting the OS-focused Java community behind a unified framework for J2EE apps is going to help Java to compete better against .NET," Dietzen said. "Workshop brings drag-and-drop to Java just as PowerBuilder brought it to the client/server world," he observed.

    Dietzen contended that J2EE is simply "too sophisticated" now to hit what he calls "the sweet spot" - which is "making Java easier for tackling hard problems" such as Web services orchestration. Noting that WebLogic Workshop has won the most industry awards since Borland's Delphi, BEA was now making it available to the wider Java community, he added.

    That "should expand the overall set of Java apps, including that for WebLogic," he said. "The open source community is a great way to drive such ubiquity - witness the success of Struts, never ratified as a Java standard."

    So BEA is looking at open source as a way to get its offerings into more developers' hands, and as a way to "elevate J2EE beyond Web apps to SOA orchestration," as Dietzen puts it. (There is currently very little IP in either the OS or the Java community aimed at providing orchestration for SOA, he noted.)

    Dietzen emphasized that BEA was not open-sourcing any of BEA's major products like WebLogic Server, WebLogic Platform, or WebLogic Portal - the runtime of Workshop lies on top of these products.

    The move will "expose BEA to Open Source Land," he explained. Tomcat, for example, doesn't do orchestration, he said, "so Beehive allows our customers to easily migrate a Tomcat app to a WebLogic container - a seamless upgrade path if and when they want it and there is a business case for it." Indeed the first implementation "is going to be targeted at Tomcat," he announced.

    Cornelius Willis, responsible for BEA's developer evangelism and developer relations, emphasized the win-win nature of the move, bringing "Big new business opportunities for BEA as well as for developers."

    The framework will now be developed both by BEA engineeers and the wider community, Willis explained. "Any development tool can be used in conjunction with Beehive," he said, "and it can be deployed on any app server from any vendor."

    Beehive complements all development tools, he said, and BEA believes it will "dramatically increase the use of Java in the enterprise."

    By bringing Java developers into the world of orchestrated services, Willis continued, Beehive would be playing its part in what he called the "modernizing" of Java.

    BEA was convinced that the open-sourcing of WebLogic Workshop's application development framework would expand its market reach, "creating greater market exposure for our portal products and for WebLogic Server," Willis said.

    With Beehive, he continued, "developers get access to all the award-winning technology found in BEA WebLogic Workshop, including Java annotations, Java controls, Java Web services and Java Page Flows, which drive increased interoperability and developer productivity."

    "Java developers and customers can build advanced SOA apps now," he emphasized. "It's the best, perhaps the only way, to build SOA apps now," he asserted.

    Will the componentized aspects of development using Beehive attract COBOL, Visual Basic and PowerBuilder developers to Java? Willis and Dietzen think so. Their belief is that Project Beehive will help bring such business developers "into the fold."

    "Less than 10% of developers worldwide possess the ability to code to the appropriate level for J2EE," Willis conceded. So this was a way of broadening the use and adoption of Java.

    "By open-sourcing Workshop, we're giving developers a better return on their most precious investment - their time," said Willis.

    Industry comments have already started coming in. JBoss Inc. for example, told Web Services Journal:

    "JBoss is pleased that BEA is beginning to embrace open source for parts of their development environment. We trust that they will receive the same favorable feedback from the community as JBoss does. It is clear that the Professional Open Source model is having a dramatic impact on the software industry as evidenced by BEA's announcement. Professional Open Source, in which no-cost software licenses are backed up by expert technical support services, is quickly becoming the new safe choice for enterprises. JBoss Inc. also believes our strategic advantage in the middleware marketplace is unaffected by today's BEA announcement because JBoss open source license covers the entire J2EE application server and allows end-user enterprises and ISVs to deploy the JBoss Application Server free of charge regardless of the size of the production environment."


    David Skok, of venture capitalists Matrix Partners, another active proponent of "professional open source"  and a JBoss board member, added:

    "It looks like BEA is beginning to really feel the heat from the success that JBoss is enjoying. From JBoss's standpoint this development is very positive. It allows users of Beehive to create code that can run on the JBoss App Server as well as BEA's. It however stops short of open-sourcing their app server which is the only chance BEA has of slowing JBoss's momentum. That step would eliminate hundreds of millions in revenue for them - so I doubt that it is a viable option."

    Asked by Web Services Journal News Desk for his reactions, Sun's chief technology evangelist, Simon Phipps, said of today's Beehive announcement: "Interesting move." He continued:

    "Sun has long experience of open source and tools. Having seeded the Netbeans open source community back in 2000 and shown strong commitment to the community since then. If this is a move to enfranchise their developers in a similar way it's to be welcomed, but with Netbeans and Sun Java Studio both mature and already offering the ability to deploy across a choice of application servers, they will need to do more than just hope for volunteers."

    Is BEA starting out too late, when it comes to open source and tools, compared to rivals like Sun and IBM? The key will be to see if they really generate a community the way NetBeans for example has, observes Phipps. 

    Web Services Journal News Desk will of course follow the progress of "Project Beehive" over the coming months. 

    More Stories By SOA News Desk

    SOA World Magazine News Desk trawls the world of distributed computing and SOA-related developments for the latest word on technologies, standards, products, and services and brings key information to you in a timely and convenient summary form.

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