BEA Unveils Portal Strategy

Company will focus on enterprise customers and expanding facilities in China.

At the BEAWorld conference here last week, BEA Systems Inc. officials made it quite clear that they intend to make enterprise portals a centerpiece of the companys strategy going forward and also stressed that its facilities in China will play a key role in BEAs plan to expand throughout the world.

BEA last week unveiled its portal strategy, which centers on enabling enterprise customers to use the companys portal technology as a business interaction platform for creating interactive portals, collaborative communities and composite applications.

BEA wants customers to do this in distributed environments with no concerns about what foundational operating systems, application servers and programming environments they maintain, said Alfred Chuang, founder, chairman and CEO of BEA, based in San Jose, Calif.

BEAs recent acquisition of Plumtree Software Inc. will be a major building block of this strategy, as will the companys WebLogic Portal. The technology acquired from Plumtree is now known as AquaLogic User Interaction (formerly Plumtree Corporate Portal), and both the Plumtree-based portal product and WebLogic Portal will spawn products, company officials said.

In fact, over the next two years, BEA plans to combine portions of the WebLogic Portal and AquaLogic product families to provide common portal infrastructure services, application services and tools that can be used with future versions of both WebLogic Portal and AquaLogic User Interaction, said Mark Carges, BEAs executive vice president in charge of the portal unification effort.

Carges said the unified portal strategy will help BEA customers understand how they can use the AquaLogic User Interaction and WebLogic Portal products together. He said that the opportunity for BEAs Plumtree-based portal business is essentially untapped in China.

However, Leo Liang, deputy country manager for BEA Systems China, said BEA has struck a deal with the city of Beijing to deliver a WebLogic Portal-based solution that will be in place for the start of the 2008 Olympics, though the deal has yet to be formally announced.

And Bruce Liang, a director with China Telecom Corp. Ltd., based here, said his company is partnering with BEA "where BEA is involved in the e-commerce portal and e-government portal" spaces.

In speeches and interviews here, BEA executives said that the companys 2-year-old R&D facility in China will be instrumental in the companys future plans.

"As the China R&D Center expands, BEA can move more tasks to China," said Frank Xiong, vice president and general manager of the China R&D Center for BEA, in a statement. "And while product innovation remains our top priority, the facility continues to explore innovative projects and programs outside of our existing product lines that can help benefit China, our partners and our customers."

Citing the importance of the new direction toward a unified portal strategy, Chuang told eWEEK that of the five acquisitions BEA made during the last few months, the Plumtree acquisition is perhaps the most strategic. In fact, thats why Chuang placed Carges, former BEA chief technology officer, in charge of the AquaLogic User Interaction business.

"Mark has been with me for a long time," Chuang said. "He was integral in the WebLogic strategy, he has been a strong CTO and now I am calling on him to help us deliver on this strategy."

More than 100 customers in various vertical industries have deployed the BEA AquaLogic platform, Chuang said. Indeed, many customers are coming to BEA for the first time specifically to purchase AquaLogic, he said in an interview.

Chuang said BEAs other announcements also will help promote SOA (service-oriented architecture) momentum, including the new AquaLogic User Interaction product line and new versions of the companys AquaLogic Enterprise Security and AquaLogic Service Bus. BEA also announced an SOA certification program for IT architects.

BEA officials said the companys unified portal strategy will unfold in three stages. The first stage will focus on increasing the interoperation between WebLogic Portal and AquaLogic User Interaction for sharing portlets and other page elements.

By the first half of next year, BEA will release a unified Java Specification Request (JSR-168) implementation and a unified WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portlets) implementation—both of which are specifications BEA helped create. Both portal products will use the unified WSRP implementation to produce WSRP portlets that can be consumed by any WSRP-compliant portal, company officials said.

And while both of BEAs portal products already support these standards, the focus of the first stage will be to enable users using both WebLogic Portal and AquaLogic User Interaction to more easily share assets between portals, the company said.

The second stage, which is expected to be complete sometime in the second half of next year, will include componentizing various portal functions into a set of services common to both portal products.

BEA officials said such services could include portal infrastructure services; activity services, such as collaboration, search, distributed publishing and usage analytics; higher-level portal features for creating communities, group pages, content aggregation and knowledge management; and developer and business user tools. The company plans to release a series of new products that independently package these common services, BEA officials said.

The third stage, to be released in 2007, will unify the common portal infrastructure components and services into a single product environment for managing user experiences over the Web, including portals and composite applications, company officials said. The offering will run across heterogeneous systems, supporting platforms such as Unix, Linux, .Net, various application servers and open-source software such as Tomcat.

BEA also used the conference to announce some new projects the company plans to turn into products.

The first is known as Project Runner. Runner is a rapid application services and composition engine that exposes the portal infrastructure and activity services to nonportal applications, company officials said. Runner will support the creation of new composite applications and complement existing portal-based applications, they said.

"Project Holland" is an enterprise application wiki that enables business users and other nondevelopers to collaborate on the creation of interactive work spaces, group pages and portal communities, company officials said.

Finally, "Project Graffiti" is a collaborative information discovery and knowledge management system used to classify and discover content stored in any corporate content repository, BEA officials said.

All three products are slated to be available in the second half of next year.

In addition, BEA announced the release of the new version of its JVM (Java virtual machine) known as JRockit 5.0. The company also showed off its JRockit Mission Control suite and WebLogic RealTime Edition, which enables Java programs to perform as fast as those written in C or other languages.