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It's "The End of the Era of Integration," Says BEA's Alfred Chuang

As BEA aims to close the 'IT Gap' and make 'Liquid Computing' real

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    The pre-conference build-up promotions described this year's eWorld, which opened yesterday in San Francisco, as being "where pioneers from BEA, HP and Intel will reveal their thoughts on where they've been, what they've seen, and what's coming." Day One kicked off in the Moscone Center yesterday in a way that suggests the breathless prose of that build-up was for once completely appropriate.

    Only time will tell if BEA is justified ino riding the SOA horse in so high-profile a way, but anyone listening to the opening keynote here by founder, chairman, and CEO Alfred S. Chuang yesterday was left in no doubt of his certainty that WebLogic Platform 8.1 is the only feasible SOA platform already on the market, and that therein lies BEA's massive competitive advantage.

    "The whole industry is making plans around SOA," declared Chuang. But while BEA has 8.1, he added, no one else has an SOA platform able to build, store, share, and structure and manage the whole services layer in the way that 8.1 can.

    "They have plans," said Chuang, defiantly, "but we have deployments. Right now."

    No wonder the catchline of the 9th eWorld is "Deploy SOA Now." Those three words, Chuang told his audience of 3,000 or so partners and customers, represent an urgent message.

    "Today," he continued, "We begin to build a foundation designed to leverage SOA and forever change IT from a barrier to an enabler of business value."

    Before unpacking for his audience the new elements of BEA's overall future strategy, Chuang backed up momentarily to remind everyone how just a year ago, at the 8th annual eWorld in Orlando, WebLogic 8.1 was launched - incorporating WebLogic Workshop (WLW).

    Much has happened since then, he noted. Since last year, WebLogic 8.1 has been downloaded more than half a million times and more than 1500 customers have deployed it.

    "BEA wants to make it easier for you to harness Java's superior value," he added. "Last week we open-sourced the complete WLW application framework, all of its runtime." This decision to open-source the runtime of WLW has the aim of proliferating BEA's reach in what Chuang hopes will be an exponential way.

    But eWorld attendees had arguably heard many times before how BEA is simultaneously continuing to promote standardization via the JCP - ("8.1 allows you to execute standards-based applications," Chuang reminded everyone, in case the Project Beehive announcement suggested abandonment of the JCP). What they had come for this week was The Next Big Thing. Talk of how "the blending of technology and standards unleashes the benefits of IT" is last year's news already.

    Chuang was not about to disappoint them. On the contrary, he perhaps took many by surprise by being the first one to point out that SOA itself wasn't in reality the Next Big Thing: "SOA is nothing new," he said. "Its greatest value is that it facilitates server-driven enterprises, aligning IT with the business. It closes 'the IT gap'- the struggle between the demands of the business and what IT can deliver."

    SOA also provides the opportunity for BEA to unleash its candidate for the New i-Technology Concept of the Year: "Liquid Computing."

    Known until recently as "Project Sierra," BEA's attempt to map its product set to the massive industry changes indicated by the shift to SOA, has now culminated - Chuang said - in a vision, Liquid Computing, that has become "the guiding vision of all our development efforts in BEA."

    "There is a better way," he observed, "Liquid Computing is the better way."

    For a $1 BN company in the integration business, the Liquid Computing vision begins somewhat surprisingly with the recognition that, in Chuang's words,"the new direction is compatibility, which is cheaper and more flexible than integration."

    The move to compatibility starts with SOA, he explained, and with WebLogic Platform 8.1.

    "BEA is helping to create a new generation of service-enabled enterprises," he affirmed. "This is the beginning of compatibility and the end of the era of integration."

    Chuang tried briefly to explain that the premise of Liquid Computing is that "half the battle in IT is keeping up with business demands that are constantly changing."

    The biggest cost of an IT solution, in other words "is not the software, not the development, but the ongoing cost to manage, maintain, and enhance those applications."

    Put even more simply, Chuang said: "IT solutions comehow keep getting more expensive after they're deployed."

    Amid the inevitable buzzphrases - "Enterprise Compatibility," "Active Adaptability," "Breakthrough Productivity" - Chuang was careful not to let his audience lose sight of his main point, which was that "We need IT systems that actively reduce the time needed to address business change." This, he repeated, was really the key to Liquid Computing.

    "As a business manager," he explained, "I'm limited by what the applications were originally designed to allow me to do. Developers had to predict 10 years ago what my business needs are today."

    Clearly that makes no sense, Chuang suggested. Whereas on the contrary "Liquid Computing enables 'self-service' business." By this, BEA means that in future, apps will be modified by business managers and in the language of business, without a costly IT redevelopment cycle.

    What's in it for BEA customners and partners? "Further increases of 'time to value' is what," said Chuang. "The goal of Liquid Computing," he added, "is to leap from months to minutes."

    Engineers are hard at work on a new offering called Quicksilver, he continued, which he described as "a convegence of messaging, message brokering, and Web Services management."

    Another offering, Alchemy, would be unveiled tomorrow by Adam Bosworth in his presentation at the show.

    "Product by product, concept by concept, BEA will deliver our vision of Liquid Computing," Chuang concluded. "Deploy SOA Now is not merely a motto. It is the first step on a journey whose destination is Liquid Computing."

    Today BEA will doubtless reveal much more about Alchemy and Quicksilver and those attending eWorld will be able to judge for themselves what the impact on the marketplace of BEA's new software sorcery is likely to be. 

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    WLDJ News Desk trawls the world of e-commerce technologies for news and innovations and presents IT professionals with updates on WebLogic related technology trends, products, and services.

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