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The BEA Buzz: Beehive Open Source Initiative

BEA Systems is donating the application framework in its WebLogic Workshop Java development environment to the open source community, the company disclosed last week. All future development of the newly re-branded Project Beehive will be done in the open-source community by BEA engineers and community participants, said BEA’s CTO Scott Dietzen, and the company plans to make the framework freely available under a BSD-style license.

“BEA is looking at open source as a way to efficiently get innovations into developers hands, increase the feedback, and prove our overall product offering,” Dietzen told reporters during a conference call. “The bottom line is that Beehive is designed to accelerate the proliferation of Java, particularly for Web and SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) apps, by simplifying development. We believe that this is going to expand and grow the Java market overall, and will attract more users to BEA.”

BEA’s Workshop product consists of two parts: the IDE and the application framework or runtime, which unifies disparate programming models and technologies within the J2EE standard. This framework is designed to eliminate much of the routine plumbing code for J2EE programmers, explained Cornelius Willis, BEA’s VP of developer relations, freeing them from the need to start from scratch for each project.

“By open sourcing this framework we make it possible for any development tool to integrate with it,” Willis said. “We make it possible for this framework to be deployed on any application server from any vendor. This ensures that customers and partners can take advantage of these innovations with absolute investment protection. Developers can use Beehive from any development tool, which allows them to leverage a tool that they are already familiar with, which reduces the time it takes to become productive on a project and lowers the overall training costs for organizations.”

IBM officials said they were underwhelmed by the BEA effort. “BEA is looking to take some interesting technology and try to make it more acceptable by opening it up,” John Swainson, general manager of IBM’s application and integration middleware business told eADT. “Just throwing something into open source doesn’t make it work. You have to promote it, invest in it. There are 76,000 separate projects listed on open source [sites]. Perhaps five make any difference to most, and to the hard core guys maybe 50 make a difference.”

Swainson declared the IBM initiated and backed Eclipse project an open-source success and the newly independent group claims 18 million-plus downloads of Eclipse technology over the past year or so.

Beehive is designed to deliver a cross-container, ease-of-use programming model and application framework for J2EE- and SOA-based applications. It includes support for JSR 175 meta data annotations, the Java controls framework for creating and consuming J2EE components, a simplified Web services programming framework, and the Struts-based Java Page Flow technology for creating Web-based user interfaces and applications.

Willis was particularly enthusiastic about the inclusion of the Java controls, which he described as reusable components that developers could use as building blocks when creating applications. "[Controls] allows Java developers… to build advanced SOA implementations productively now,” he said. “I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s the best and perhaps only way to implement SOA now.”

The Workshop IDE will not be part of the Beehive initiative, nor will the company’s other products runtime products (WebLogic Server, WebLogic Portal, and WebLogic Integration), Willis added.

Project Beehive has been in the works since December 2003, Dietzen said. The company had planned to make the announcement this week at its annual eWorld user conference, but decided to get the buzz going early. This year's conference, the ninth such event, runs Monday through Thursday (May 24-27) at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Officials said no decision has yet been reached on exactly how BEA will open source Beehive. Dietzen said that the San Jose, Calif.-based software maker is considering a number of options, including working with cross-platform software indexer Freshmeat.net and/or the open-source redeveloper Web site SourceForge.net, and possibly even creating its own open-source community.

BEA decided to go open source with Beehive rather than taking it through the Java Community Process because the JCP is just too time-consuming, Dietzen said. He pointed out that a typical Java Specification Request (JSR) faces an 18-month cycle to become a fully recognized standard. But he hastened to add that BEA is a staunch supporter of the JCP. “We are fully committed to the standardization process,” he said. “Basically, we use the JSR process wherever we can, but our ISVs in particular are looking for investment protection across containers faster than we can JSR standardize these innovations and get them into everybody else’s products.”

Dietzen said dropped the names of some leading tools vendors during the conference, including Borland, Compuware and Eclipse board member Substantiations, all of whom are supporting Beehive. Linux distributor Red Hat is currently considering how it might add it support, he said.

“Getting more of the Java community, and in particular the open-source Java community, behind a unified framework for J2EE applications is going to drive proliferations and help all of us in Javaland better compete with the alternative .NET technologies from Microsoft,” Dietzen added.

About the Authors

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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