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BEA’s New "Liquid" Service Infrastructure Strategy

BEA Systems has unveiled a new line of products for the emerging service infrastructure market, and launched a rebranding campaign to freshen its image.

BEA’s new AquaLogic product family is designed to provide an open and independent platform for developing, deploying, managing and operating a service-oriented architecture in heterogeneous computing environments, including .NET, Java and legacy systems.

The AquaLogic line builds on the fluid theme of BEA’s evolving SOA strategy, introduced last year as Liquid Computing, but with what ZapThink senior analyst Ron Schmelzer sees as a much more focused commitment to SOA.

“When we saw BEA’s strategy a year ago, it was not very clear how committed they were to SOA,” Schmelzer says. “It was clear that they wanted people to build on the WebLogic [J2EE application Server], but their SOA strategy was still fuzzy around the edges. I think BEA realizes that they have to play all out in that space if they want to continue to be relevant.”

BEA is best known for its application infrastructure software (application servers, integration servers, development tools and portal software), offered under the WebLogic brand. The AquaLogic line is all about the service infrastructure, which the company defines as software based on SOA that includes the products and tools primarily used by IT and business architects to enable services that can be composed once and leveraged anywhere.

“Basically, it’s the broad category of products and standards that is going to provide the outline for the implementation of SOA,” says BEA’s VP of marketing Bill Roth. “AquaLogic is our move into something in addition to Java, something that’s not necessarily developer focused.”

“This is a big change from BEA’s traditional platform-centric view of the world," says senior analyst Jason Bloomberg, also from ZapThink. “Their strategy was to simply go toe-to-toe with IBM WebSphere, building a better J2EE platform for building applications and integrating technology. With the recent change in leadership, and some reorganization, BEA has refocused on the service-oriented viewpoint. They still have the application infrastructure, but they’re not stuck with that single platform-centric vision."

Several key executives departed BEA last year, including CTO Scott Dietzen and chief architect Adam Bosworth. Bloomberg believes those departures and some reorganization that followed may have helped to shake BEA from its platform-centric world view.

BEA unveiled four products in its new AquaLogic line: The AquaLogic Service Bus, which Roth describes as a converged enterprise service bus and Web services management product (it’s the product that was formerly called Quicksilver); the AquaLogic Service Registry, a UDDI 3.0-compliant business services registry that also supports SOA governance and lifecycle management; the AquaLogic Data Services Platform, an XML-based data-access software for tapping into disparate data sources (basically a new-and-improved version of Liquid Data); and AquaLogic Enterprise Security, which helps to frame security as a service.

Some of the components within the AquaLogic line will be resold products from third parties, Roth says. For example, BEA has licensed a Web services registry from Systinet and formed partnerships with two Web services management companies, AmberPoint and SOA software. The company expects to add additional AquaLogic products in the future, including AquaLogic Portal, Process and Composer, Roth says.

AquaLogic Enterprise Security is the only product available today; the others are expected later this summer.

BEA’s new Aqua branding, “Think Liquid” slogan, and snappy Web site graphics are external expressions of internal changes at the company, says Roth. “Our look and feel hasn’t changed in six years,” he says. “But there are fundamental changes going on at BEA. We need to express that, both with our products and the way we present ourselves to the marketplace.”

The success of the new product line and branding strategy rest on BEA’s ability to execute, say the ZapThink analysts.

“These are all 1.0 products,” Bloomberg says, “so a lot of this is roadmap stuff. And it’s going to take them awhile for them to get up to speed. But we definitely think that this is a good start.”

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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