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At BEA eWorld: BEA's SOA vision: 'Liquid Computing'

BEA Systems' chief exec Alfred Chuang kicked off the ninth annual eWorld user conference in San Francisco this week by officially rolling out his company's Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) strategy, which is based on BEA's vision of a "fluid enterprise" enabled by a set of products and services collectively dubbed "Liquid Computing."

"We believe that SOA is the architecture that will finally deliver the full value of IT," Chuang said. "Today, we begin to build a foundation designed to leverage SOA and forever change IT from a barrier to an enabler of business value."

The San Jose, Calif.-based infrastructure company defines SOA as a set of principles and practices for sharing, reusing and orchestrating business logic as services. Formerly code-named Sierra, BEA's Liquid Computing initiative aims to help organizations integrate their disparate applications through SOAs "to align IT with business needs to increase business responsiveness and help drive down complexity and costs" -- and ultimately, to help them become service-driven enterprises. The strategy focuses on three main themes: enterprise compatibility, active adaptability and breakthrough productivity. The basic idea, Chuang said, is to enable quick changes to IT infrastructure.

"The fundamental promise of SOA is to close the IT gap with users -- that struggle between the demands of the business and what IT can deliver," Chuang said. "We need IT systems that drastically reduce the time needed to address business change. The current situation is unacceptable."

Specifically, BEA's Liquid Computing initiative comprises BEA WebLogic Server Process Edition, an extension to the WebLogic Server designed to allow J2EE developers to leverage BPM tools and frameworks for quickly building complex business solutions; Project QuickSilver, XML-based technology that provides message brokering and Web services management to enable the sharing of services across disparate systems -- basically, an enterprise service bus; and Alchemy, the company's new plan to simplify mobile computing. QuickSilver will support Microsoft .NET, IBM WebSphere, SAP and legacy messaging environments such as Tibco Rendezvous, Chuang said. Both QuickSilver and Alchemy are still in development.

"The ultimate goal [of Liquid Computing] is to automate change," Chuang said.

The Liquid Computing products and services will be incorporated into WebLogic 9, Chuang told reporters during a post-keynote press briefing. Chuang added that the company he founded intends to increase its annual revenue from its current $1 billion to $3 billion within five years. "We are the perfect size to be the ultimate innovator in the marketplace," he said.

During the conference-opening presentation, Hewlett-Packard's chief strategy and technology officer Shane Robison took the stage to announce HP's plan to make its OpenView product the preferred system management platform for BEA's WebLogic. During the post-keynote Q&A, Chuang emphasized that BEA would support other network management software as well, including offerings from Computer Associates and BMC. HP's Shane also unveiled the Real-Time Information Director, which leverages BEA's WebLogic Server to apply business rules in real time to software and services for deploying SOAs.

BEA CTO Scott Dietzen also announced that the Apache Software Foundation has agreed to host the open-sourcing of the application framework from BEA's WebLogic Workshop tool, known as Project Beehive. The Apache group will oversee work on the project, but during the press briefing, Chuang hastened to emphasize that BEA would continue to play a significant role in the technology's evolution.

"We have made a huge commitment," Chuang said, "and that commitment doesn't end with just giving them the source code. We are going to be one of the biggest contributors of the continuing effort to make sure that Beehive will continue to grow at an exponential rate, along side other people supporting it and building software around it."

BEA cites a recent Gartner study on Service-Oriented Architectures that found that by 2008, more than 60% of enterprises will use SOA as the "guiding principle" behind the development of their mission-critical applications and processes.

About the Author

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

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