SAN FRANCISCO—Convinced that service-oriented architecture is mature enough and sufficiently trusted by enterprises, BEA Systems introduced here on Sept. 19 at its BEAWorld user conference a standard development platform that spans the companys three main product lines, Tuxedo, WebLogic and AquaLogic.
Called WorkSpace 360, the platform enables business and IT professionals to work together to build Web-based SOA applications that integrate information from many different applications and data sources. The goal, said BEA CEO Alfred Chuang, is to make it much easier for enterprises to collate data that is usually stored away in many separate applications.
The time is right to do this, Chuang said, because enterprise IT organizations are accepting SOA as an effective, standard way to integrate and reuse business information across all database, middleware and hardware platforms.
Chuang noted that a recent market study by Gartner, in Stamford, Conn., found that more than half of the enterprises it studied were either implementing SOA technology or was planning their initial implementations.
They are doing this, he said, because SOA has the potential to enable enterprises to react to market demands faster, by giving them swifter access to information they need to make business decisions and by providing ways to discover new business opportunities and create new revenue streams.
So far, enterprises havent made as much progress as they want to in streamlining their ability to access data, Chuang said; enterprises are still using spreadsheets, database reports and isolated “one-off” applications to try to discover the data needed to make intelligent business decisions. “People still jump from one application to another application just to get the business information that is relevant so they can be productive,” he said.
The goal of WorkSpace 360 will be to provide an environment where all the key stakeholders in business application design can work together to provide integrated applications that meet organizations business needs.
At the core of WorkSpace 360 is what BEA is calling the mSA (MicroService Architecture), which the company described as a “lightweight, embeddable” software platform that implements SOA standards.
BEA said that mSA will be open so that it can be readily implemented and extended by third-party developers that want their products to interoperate with WorkSpace 360.
Chuang said past experience has shown that competitors will try to copy BEA software architectures and he expects that will be true again, despite BEAs plan to make mSA open and extensible. But he said he doesnt view that as a negative factor, because it will allow buyers to compare the relative effectiveness of these products as well as the price values.
Offering an Open Platform
BEA will also revise its own products so that all of them will support mSA by the end of 2008. The company plans to introduce WorkSpace 360 components throughout 2007, company officials said.
This will allow mSA to work with BEAs three core products lines, the WebLogic application server, the AquaLogic data integration platform and its Tuxedo transaction processing environment.
With the announcement of WorkSpace 360, the company isnt really introducing radically new technology, said Michael Dortch, principal business analyst with the Robert Frances Group, based in Westport, Conn.
“The challenge is in integrating it all in ways that enable enterprises to realize the business benefits SOAs have promised to date,” Dortch said.
“The really good news here is that BEA has a unified, integrated message about its offerings that [aligns] closely with the key challenges and opportunity that SOAs present to enterprise IT decision makers,” he said.
“Also, BEA understands that many of these challenges are cultural and political, not technological,” he said, adding that the company is trying to combine services and technologies in a way that addresses those cultural challenges.
For example, BEA is launching SOA for Executives, which is a suite of services aimed at enabling business and IT executives “to have more productive conversations” about SOAs, business needs and application alignment, he said.
“The other thing they are at least hinting at doing or promising to do is open up their architecture to competitors … If this works the way they want it to, it will give IT decision makers freedom of choice and the comfort of interoperability,” which they always want, but dont often get a chance to experience, Dortch said.
Competitors are going to have to take notice of BEAs latest move in the SOA field, Dortch said. “BEA is too well entrenched in too many enterprise infrastructures for their competitors to ignore entirely. They are going to have to acknowledge BEAs presence, if not deliver full interoperability with BEA solutions,” he said.
BEA contends that WorkSpace 360 will give businesses greater control over their application architecture because it is designed to bring the key decision makers together as the development process cycles from establishing business requirements through application design and implementation.
These decision makers include business analysts, enterprise architects, application developers and IT operations managers who are typically involved in application design. But the application design process frequently doesnt allow these different interests to work together effectively through the entire development and implementation process, BEA said.