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News Analysis: WebLogic Workshop goes commercial

It is not easy to launch a new toolset these days, even if you are as hot a company as BEA Systems. After achieving tremendous growth in the Java application server space, the company's leaders decided two years ago that the road to still greater growth would be found in easier-to-use IDEs -- a better way to spread the Java app server fever.

BEA bought a struggling but talent-packed Microsoft spin-off known as Crossgain Corp. and turned its technology into WebLogic Workshop, an application development environment that focused on easing basic tasks like Web services, integration and portal development. A series of road shows introduced the world to the WebLogic Workshop Free Edition tools, but it was largely seen and offered as something of a prototype for small WebLogic server apps -- a free download or bag stuffer.

This is not what Microsoft/Crossgain wunderkinds Tod Nielsen and Adam Bosworth had in mind when they came into the BEA camp but, as noted above, it is hard to launch a commercial tool these days. The company would claim that it is still on-plan with the product.

BEA has steadily improved and spread WebLogic Workshop. But to displace Lotus Domino, PowerBuilder and Visual Basic development methods is a large task.

This week BEA moved to light the WebLogic Workshop fire with its new BEA WebLogic Workshop Professional Edition. Priced at $995, the product is said to allow variously skilled developers to develop and commercially deploy Java or service-based applications on the WebLogic Platform. Assorted tools resellers will now begin to offer BEA WebLogic Workshop Professional Edition.

Looking ahead, said Cornelius Willis, the firm's vice president of developer marketing, BEA needs to get more people to write controls for this IDE and platform. You will see more commissioned or third-party WebLogic Workshop controls in coming weeks, he added.

"Controls are the story," said Willis who, like Nielsen and other Workshop folk, has worked at Microsoft where Visual Basic rose to prominence on the back of third-party component programs. "There is nothing like that in J2EE. There are no reusable parts," he noted.

Is he concerned that competitor IBM is fashioning JavaServer Faces to ease development for Lotus Domino developers now moving to Java? Notes Willis: "A lot of companies want a second source. Moreover, what IBM is doing is going to bring the Lotus audience to J2EE. That's good for us, too."

BEA recently forged a deal with Compuware to allow Compuware OptimalJ modelers to work more directly with the BEA Server. Upcoming from BEA is more of the same. Currently under wraps is Project Sierra, which will improve the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) tie-in to the tools and platform, and then "some business modeling above that." Expect to hear more at the company's yearly user group meeting in May.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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