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BEA copies Microsoft approach

BEA is set to launch Version 7.0 of its WebLogic application server and a new development environment called WebLogic Workshop.

The company will also launch WebLogic Enterprise - which bundles the company's applications servers, portal, and enterprise application integration (EAI) tools in a single offering - and launch a developer programme called dev2dev.

With the launch of dev2dev, BEA is trying to create a Java developer community approach similar to Microsoft's approach to Windows developers. The company will launch its own development environment and provide better integration between its application server and third-party tools.

Although BEA appears to be copying Microsoft's developer strategy, analysts said the company is actually going after its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) rivals, namely IBM and Sun.

"Now that application servers are becoming commoditised, BEA has to figure out how they'll make money. BEA wants to make it so that developers can more easily build for WebLogic," said Neal Goldman, an analyst at The Yankee Group.

By offering tools to make it easier to develop on the front end, BEA is encouraging developers to use BEA as the back-end infrastructure.

For example, Version 7.0 adds support for J2EE 1.3, Web services, and asynchronous transactions across a set of loosely-coupled applications.

That latter capability is critical because the vast majority of Web services applications will be connected in an asynchronous manner rather than in a synchronous fashion. Most development environments do not yet support this capability.

"Application servers historically have been very focused on real-time, synchronous communications," said Michele Rosen, an analyst at IDC. "But you are not going to want to tie up your enterprise resources in real time, so asynchronous communication is really key to business-level Web services."

BEA's tool was originally developed at CrossGain under the leadership of former Microsoft executive Adam Bosworth. BEA acquired CrossGain, where Bosworth now serves as vice-president of engineering.

"CrossGain was early in Web services, and so BEA's acquisition showed some foresight," Rosen said.

"BEA has absolutely the right idea," she added. "This is sort of the Holy Grail to have a Visual Basic-like development environment for Java, and if BEA is able to execute, it could be significant".

According to Chris Dial, an analyst at Forrester Research, it will not be easy for BEA to switch developers over to its camp. "The lock-in comes with developers knowing how to use a specific tool," Dial said. "The competition is all about getting your tool in front of developers."
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