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Another development exec departs BEA

Scott Dietzen, chief technology officer at BEA Systems, left the company last week, adding to the list of recent high-level executive departures from the San Jose, Calif.-based application infrastructure software maker.

Dietzen left BEA less than a week after the departure of another of the company's leading lights, chief architect Adam Bosworth. Bosworth, who oversaw the development of BEA's WebLogic Workshop dev tools, has joined search powerhouse Google. Two other executives, Rick Jackson and Erik Frieberg, left the company before Bosworth. Both took executive positions at BEA partner Borland Software.

Dietzen joined BEA in 1998 with the company's acquisition of WebLogic (the company), which he helped to found. WebLogic's flagship product, a Java-based application server, then called "Tengah," evolved into BEA's market-leading WebLogic Platform and spawned a family of products. Dietzen was widely considered a driving force behind WebLogic.

BEA disclosed last week that Dietzen will be replaced by Mark Carges, who has held both sales and product development roles at the company.

Dietzen's reasons for leaving the company were not clear. In a memo reportedly sent to BEA employees, CEO Alfred Chuang said that Dietzen was taking a break and moving on. According to BEA's VP of investor relations, Kevin Faulkner, Dietzen has plans to investigate opportunities at start-up ventures.

"He told me that he's planning to take some time off, consult with some start-up companies while he's doing that, and then he expects eventually to choose one of those start-ups and go to work directly for them," Faulkner told eADT.

Rumors that more BEA execs are queued up for exits have been circulating amid industry talk about actions taken during a recent board meeting. Faulkner confirmed that the company has undergone some recent internal reorganization. BEA has set new "product priorities," he said, and changed the structure of its "external-facing function." Tom Ashburn, who had been president of BEA's services organization, was recently promoted to the newly created position of EVP of worldwide field operations, which brings the company's sales, service and marketing under one umbrella.

Also, Chuang will now head the company's product organization himself. "He wants to take his focus back to innovation and the product," Faulkner explained. "It's something he has done within the company from time to time. As CEO, his focus has been broader across the organization. Consolidating the external-facing functions under Tom's leadership frees some of Alfred's time to focus on the product group."

Faulkner stopped short of saying that Dietzen left the company because he was unhappy about the organizational changes.

"When you make changes like we did with the field organization and also setting the product priorities, there will be people who don't agree with those changes or want to pursue a different direction and will move on," he said.

BEA's new product priorities include "hardening" WebLogic 8.1, which means improving scalability, reliability and performance, as opposed to adding new features; creating a telco version of its app server that adds features focused on BEA's telecommunications customers; enhancing the features of the portal and integration aspects of the WebLogic platform; and shipping the core of the 9.0 version by the first half of next year.

Dietzen's departure comes at a less-than-ideal time for BEA, observed Meta Group analyst Thomas Murphy. The company continues to face market pressures, chiefly from IBM, but also from Oracle and, to some extent, Sun Microsystems. And new potential threats are appearing from open-source vendors like Red Hat, Novell, Computer Associates and JBoss Inc.

"There's definitely a lot of market pressure," Murphy said. "Add some major swings within the company, which makes it a pretty tough time to lose your big visionary technical guys."

There has also been some speculation about the likelihood that BEA will be acquired. On the question of whether the recent spate of executive departures makes BEA a more appealing takeover target, Murphy said, maybe -- and maybe not.

"On the one hand, when you buy a company, you don't just buy the technology and customer list," he said, "especially in a dynamic market. "You're also hoping to get some good technical people to help drive your own products. On the other hand, those are often the people who leave during an acquisition anyway."

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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