BEA Looks Ahead

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2007-09-13 Print this article Print

You mean like a DataPower type of thing? Yes. Well, thats interesting. We have a tendency in the industry to give something a name that has already been there and then we reinvent the name. For instance with BI, what we talk about today in BI is not exactly what we meant five years ago when we said BI. For me the appliance world is like if you look at the problems we had when we moved from the mainframe to distributed computing. The first set of distributed computers were a computer with an operating system that was relatively generic, but ran a specialized set of software. The first things they did was data entry. That was an appliance. It was clunky and big, but it was an appliance. It was a specialized hardware/software combination to do a single business task. Now today all thats happened is that they have shrunk in size. So I look at appliances and Im thinking for the next wave of things to happen those people are looking to do things faster.
Just like when we moved to distributed computing we couldnt wait for the old transactions to go from the source through to the back end and back. That process was too long. So what we did was move parts of the software into the distributed world and created applications that you could put in a bank. Its the same platform that we call distributed, which I feel I can call appliances, and we added more stuff to do out at the edge. And we kind of separated the business process then from data entry that ends up in a batch process under CICS, to do data thats only local to you thats in real time or near real time … and then move it over to the batch.
I think whats going to happen next is exactly that with localized SOA [service-oriented architecture] appliances—with ESBs [Enterprise Service Buses] included. Youre still talking about hardware here? Yes. … Right now people look at appliances and theyre really customized hardware/software. I look at Linux and I think to myself that this is really interesting the way that Linux is slowly emerging as the generic appliance operating system. My Tivo runs on Linux. There are consumer appliances running on Linux. Why not have a hardware machine thats customized to be efficient in running Linux, but that runs a different version of the software than we did before? We said we cant afford to take WebLogic on Linux and take it and make it smaller and it becomes a mobile WebLogic. I predict that appliances for SOA are going to become more important, possibly running on Linux. Not just customized XML transformation boxes, which also have a place. But those are for me more like Cisco [Systems] routers. A Cisco router is an appliance; its a piece of hardware and software that does nothing more than switching. They do program it, so it is a computer, but it does only one thing. Im talking about more of a generic box you would put at the edges to make service bus and data transformation faster. I could see localized in-memory databases that support real-time processing that runs at the edge and talks to the ESB. Predicting that is one thing, but we say what we would need is to take our ESB and make it go towards a federated approach. We need to make our ESB a federated ESB such that by the time we get to that point the mini-ESBs will know how to talk to the big ESBs both when a connection exists and when a connection doesnt exist. Thats the same interesting problem domain that Google had when they were developing their technology for applications. Its easy to build an application that runs connected. Its hard to build an application thats sometimes connected and sometimes not and does it really well. So are you going to get into the hardware business? Or are you going to seek partnerships? Do I see us getting into the hardware business? Probably not. Do I see partnerships? Absolutely, yes. There are people who do this really well. We already have partnerships with some hardware vendors such as Cisco and Intel. Well, Microsoft has gotten into the hardware business with things like the Zune and Xbox. Well, yes, and you can take lessons from what they are doing and also what Apple has done with the iPod and iTunes, etc. In that regard that strategy is similar to ours, in that they have a platform. We want to be the platform for the enterprise. Where do we put the platform? Its not about the cool technology, which we do. Its about taking that technology, creating a platform that other people support and then connecting that technology to as many things as an ecosystem to make it happen. What is BEAs response to the SAAS, or software as a service, wave? Lets separate SAAS from a technology perspective and a business model. As a business model, I think it has proven itself. Its sort of the ASP [application service provider] Part II. Two things happened to make it successful: One is the abundance of broadband. And two, a change in paradigm that says I can and will put my companys most intimate stuff in the hands of somebody I dont really know but I just trust. has proven that that can be done. If our customers want to provide their services as a SAAS offering, what would the platform change be? So from an innovation perspective, this is not really innovative, but a natural evolutionary step of how do I make WebLogic support building Java applications in such a way that they can be consumed in a SAAS business model? I think SOA is helping a lot because you will be building composite apps that are easily consumable from the outside. And when we move to this world of composite apps, that lends immensely to an SAAS business model of delivering those. Do I think that BEA will deliver its own application as a service? Yes, to some degree I can see some. Maybe in the WSIP [WebLogic Session Initiation Protocol] side, the telecommunications side, I can see that. But, in general, were a platform company. I dont think well deliver our stuff as SAAS. We will be the platform that will allow our customers to deliver their stuff as SAAS. So youre more of an enabler? We are more of an enabler. I would have thought that in the middle market—SMBs, etc.—companies like SAP and Oracle would actually find it useful to deliver their software as a service. Because one of the inhibitors to the implementation of any large-scale application—whether from Oracle, Microsoft or SAP—is the complexity and the commitment you need to give it to start. Theres a whole slew of [companies] that just cant afford the complexity. That is exactly how Salesforce became successful: You dont have to worry about how I buy and build my sales or CRM application; all you do is pay us $50 a month and well worry about that. I dont know if we and SAP and Oracle would be in the same boat. We are true enablers; they have an inherent interest in considering SAAS as a delivery mechanism for having you buy PeopleSoft access instead of buying PeopleSoft on your machine. What does BEA have that your primary competitors dont? Why should a customer come to BEA? The first thing is where we are in terms of getting things to market. If a customer wants to implement things now, the difference between us and some of the competitors is were there with products rather than talking about it. They work. We build only that. And in terms of predicting where things are going and coming up with new products that enable our customers to explore new businesses, you really need to have a comprehensive, complete platform. We have that. Its about completeness. While BEA realizes that consumer technology is entering the enterprise and has acted on that, the consumer-focused Web 2.0 companies are now realizing they may need to focus on the enterprise for growth. How do you view that? Ill predict something from the office of the CTO. I predict that youre going to find the first wave of what we call the Internet companies—like Yahoo, etc.—in the next two years pulling high-level executives from the hard-core enterprise-level application world, like the BEAs, the IBMs, the CAs, Symantecs. And thats the sign that they realize that they need to get into the enterprise because theres money to be made there, too. Its not just about how many people can be logged into Facebook; its can I make Facebook what everybody in the enterprise uses as part of their collaborative effort? We recognize there is no such thing as a consumer product and an enterprise product. All consumers, when they go 9 to 5, live inside the enterprise. How can you help expand the role of IT in the enterprise? IT is right now the enabler of business applications. I think IT can become the enabler of business innovation. When you start giving the businesspeople tools not just to run the application, but take some of the social stuff that were bringing into the market … I think IT can use this to make people in the organization collaborate with each other. And when you start harnessing expertise across the company, youd be amazed what can happen. I think were going to see an enormous explosion of new, successful business models in areas we dont expect because we are now building the agility into the system that will allow them to do so much more. I think of it as like giving Mozart an electronic keyboard. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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