BEA enhances Weblogic to let non-IT staff write code-free apps

BEA launches Project Free Flow, a new web services infrastructure

BEA Systems will this week reveal details of a line of products based on a web services infrastructure that will extend the capabilities of its Weblogic application server.

Codenamed Project Free Flow, the tools will allow non-technical staff such as business managers, human resources staff, functional analysts and security professionals to create applications without writing any code.

The tools will draw on Weblogic’s underlying Java and J2EE code to carry out enterprise application integration. It is designed to help users shift data between enterprise applications from companies such as SAP, Oracle and Manugistics.

The products will initially include Quicksilver Enterprise Service Bus, LiquidData and Enterprise Security, which will allow managers to create composite applications that can extract data from different places across heterogeneous platforms.

The news comes as other suppliers extend their application server platforms to make more use of web services. SAP is doing so with Netweaver and its forthcoming Enterprise Service Architecture, and IBM has acquired Gluecode Software and its open source Apache Geronimo J2EE application server.

Andrew Dutton, BEA’s senior vice-president EMEA, said BEA was working towards creating an environment where a user could load an HR management application into their IT system, for example, and run and manage it in a simple way.

Such a system could overhaul the current application server model, he said. “The large application players are now building proprietary software stacks again, and we have gone back to the same problem we had with proprietary operating systems. But instead of doing all the coding to link an Oracle to an SAP or a Manugistics, there should be some way of moving data between them.”

Martin Percival, principal technologist at BEA, said Weblogic  would continue to include features beyond the remit of the application server, such as clustering and failover, web services, integrating the portal into back-end data repositories, and application lifecycle management.

Weblogic 9 is now in beta. It will be J2EE 1.4-compliant, and have features to ensure that applications run around the clock, and are easier to put in place, building on existing clustering technologies, said Percival.

Weblogic 9 will also allow developers to run simultaneous instances of their applications for testing purposes. “This is way outside the application server specification,” said Percival.

He added that BEA was working with Sun and others to make its Java-based products easier for developers to integrate with Microsoft .net.
Analyst firm Gartner rates Weblogic as the number two leading application server behind IBM’s J2EE-based Websphere.

Project Free Flow: a radical change

Yefim Natis, vice-president at analyst firm Gartner, said, “BEA’s previous attempts at incrementally extending Weblogic Application Server (with Portal, Integration and Workshop) did not amount to sufficient acceleration of growth.

“BEA is now introducing a radical change: a new Weblogic-independent product line. This notable and visionary departure for BEA places its J2EE product aside, and recognises that the application integration layer must be independent of the platform underlying the applications.”

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