BEA Eyes the Open Road

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-05-10

While developers scramble to deliver simplified Java development tools for creating enterprise applications, BEA Systems Inc. has an open-source maneuver that it believes can help make its technology the de facto standard in the space.

At its eWorld annual developers conference in San Francisco, slated for later this month, BEA will announce plans to open-source portions of its WebLogic Workshop tool, according to sources. The open-source move will be the first of many for the company and is designed to make enterprise Java application development easier and available to more than just hard-core Java experts.

But BEA is not alone. Just last week, IBM introduced new versions of its WebSphere Studio Application Developer and WebSphere Studio Site Developer that feature ease-of-use capabilities. Likewise, Sun Microsystems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., is promising simplified development with its JavaStudio Creator, also known as "Project Rave," which is due this year.

BEA officials would not comment on open-source plans at eWorld, but in an interview with eWEEK last week, company CEO Alfred Chuang all but spelled out the companys plans.

"I think the opportunity and also the challenge at hand is how do we continue to proliferate Workshop in an exponential way," Chuang said. "We are thinking about several things to do. I think were looking at continuing to share our technology so other people can implement [Java] using our technology to adapt their tools to their back-end systems. We are looking at how we [can] reach a larger group of constituencies that tend to program to this stuff."

Last year, BEA, of San Jose, Calif., submitted its XMLBeans technology to The Apache Software Foundation as an open-source project.

"We are looking at a variety of different things that we can contribute [to the development community]," Chuang said. "Some of them will be specs, and some of them will be code that will give access for people to know all the underpinnings of Workshop so they will feel very comfortable to build on it or below it. Youll see in the next few months that anybody can do anything to Workshop fundamentally from a systems software perspective, not only the end-user perspective."

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"Workshop provides its own capabilities to develop Web-based applications [in a feature called PageFlow]," said Nader Karimi, CIO at Screen Actors Guild—Producers Pension and Health Plans, in Burbank, Calif. "The implementation of PageFlow is quite a nice feature in Workshop. They have done a good job of abstracting the complexities of managing user interfaces."

At the eWorld conference, Cliff Schmidt, BEAs WebLogic Workshop product manager for standards strategy, will present a WebLogic Workshop session, "New Product Announcement: BEAs Open Source Plans." Schmidt is responsible for coordinating BEAs open-source projects.

Last year, Schmidt launched the Apache groups XMLBeans open-source project, and he continues to contribute to it as a committer. This year, he helped several more open-source projects get their start, BEA officials said.

"I think there are elements of what BEA is doing in Workshop that would benefit from the community input and ecosystem that can grow up around open source," said Mike Gilpin, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass.

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