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Preparing For The Wireless World, by Scott Dietzen

JDJ: For the benefit of our readers, could you briefly describe your role in BEA?
I'm the chief technology officer for the BEA e-commerce server division. As CTO I look after the technical strategy for BEA's application server products, including the WebLogic Server, WebLogic Enterprise, and Tuxedo. So I get to spend a lot of time on newer technology initiatives, such as Web Services, wireless, and J2EE-based integration. Also, I represent BEA on the Java Executive Council, which helps shape the future of Java via the Java Community Process. Finally, I drive relationships with BEA's high-level partners, OEMs, and blue-chip customers.

JDJ: BEA seems to be everywhere on the application server map. Can you tell us some of the plans you have for expansion in the next couple of years?
Application servers are growing up into what BEA has been calling an e-business platform. Much of this new functionality is being packaged directly within the application server, such as support for multichannel applications - a unifying architecture for delivering information services across Web, wireless, voice, and Web Services. With WebLogic Server 6.1, we're also automating the generation of Web Services bindings for existing J2EE applications by generating SOAP and WSDL from EJB session beans and vice versa. We've substantially upgraded JMS performance and are now supporting IP multicasting.

But e-business platforms are more than application servers. I'm most excited right now about the impact Java and Web Services standards are having on integration. To date, the EAI market has failed to deliver on its promise, because (1) the frameworks have been built on proprietary middleware platforms with no standard data model, and (2) adapters to the legacy systems need to be "one off'ed" for each EAI solution. So (1) is now being addressed by J2EE, XML, and Web Services, while (2) is being taken care of by the J2EE Connector Architecture (JCA). BEA believes this one-two punch will transform the integration market the same way J2EE transformed application servers.

We're also growing WebLogic up toward the line of business with Personalization, Portal, Commerce, and Campaign Manager. These products empower business users to aggregate and tailor information services to better meet the needs of their customers and business partners.

JDJ: I attended your BEA User's Group Conference about a month ago. It seems that you're close to completing the story on a true e-business platform. How do you plan to distinguish yourself from other leading vendors like iPlanet, WebSphere, and ATG?
Of course, competition is good for the industry and good for BEA. Longer term, the biggest advantage that the Java community offers over Microsoft .NET may be the breadth of innovation happening on our platform. Our second rule is that most competition is really "coopitition." Sun remains one of our most strategic partners even though we compete with iPlanet. And while WebSphere remains our primary competitor, BEA complements more than 99% of IBM's business. Even ATG is becoming complementary. I was excited to hear that ATG was following the direction of BroadVision and Vignette in replacing their proprietary middleware with a J2EE application server. So how is BEA maintaining the #1 position against strong competition?

  • Reference customers: We're leading the J2EE market in production deployment.
  • Alliances: BEA has over 1,600 value-added partners, including almost all of the enterprise software vendors (PeopleSoft, BroadVision, Vignette, Ariba, and so on), and virtually all of the leading systems integrators (Accenture, CSC, KPMG, and so on). This is the most critical litmus test for a platform: How many other vendors are standing on top of you?
  • Technology leadership: WebLogic's initial claim to fame came out of getting new Java technologies to market as early as possible. We're continuing that trend with EJB 2.0, JCA, and transparency for Web Services.
  • Independence: The final point I would cite is BEA's independence. Unlike our larger competitors, we don't have a vested interest in hardware, operating systems, databases, or professional services. That means ISVs and end users can partner with BEA knowing that their applications can be deployed on Solaris, Linux, Windows, HP-UX, AIX, AS/400, and even OS/390, and deployed with Oracle, DB2, MS SQL Server, Informix, Sybase, and so on.

JDJ: Whom do you consider your strongest competition?
IBM is the only competitor we see on a regular basis. In our most recent earnings report, you'll see the latest evidence that we're growing our WebLogic business faster than IBM WebSphere is growing, and we're growing from a substantially larger base.

JDJ: Could you broadly categorize your product line?
Our product line makes up the WebLogic E-Business Platform that provides the essential infrastructure for building an integrated e-business. The platform includes the market-leading WebLogic application servers plus commerce, personalization, and portal components for rapidly developing e-commerce applications to win and retain customers. It also includes newly updated integration capabilities that support new ways of automating business processes, and linking and interacting with suppliers, partners, and existing deployed applications.

JDJ: One of the things I took away from the conference was that although you have a broad range of offerings, there's still some integration work to be done. For example, most of the products run on WebLogic 5.1 instead of 6.0. How will you bridge the gap?
Well, the good news is that all of our WebLogic products now run on WebLogic Server 6.0. The time frame you refer to was several months ago, shortly after WebLogic Server 6.0 was introduced. The only alternative to this gap would be our holding up the release of WebLogic Server until our value-added e-commerce and integration products were certified on the new platform. Given the continuing demand for new application server technology, we felt this was the wrong thing to do.

JDJ: Who are some of your biggest customers?
Some of the big names are FedEx, J.P. Morgan Chase, Charles Schwab, Nokia, DHL, United, Delta, British Airways, General Electric, Verizon, Amazon, and NTT DoCoMo. All told, we have over 9,400 corporate customers, including 100% of the Fortune Global 500 financial services companies, telcos, computer/office equipment manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, airlines, and delivery services.

JDJ: This year it seems that the application server vendors are continuing their move toward being "one-stop-shops" for all B2B2C frameworks. BEA seems to be on the same bandwagon. What would you say is unique about what your company offers?
In addition to what I mentioned earlier about key differentiators for BEA, I would say our platform is unique in how it offers a comprehensive e-business platform for building and deploying e-business applications, spanning the full spectrum from personalized e-commerce and customer relationship management on the front end to total e-business integration on the back end, including integration across the enterprise and outside the enterprise to the supply chain and other business partners. We're able to provide all of this on the industry's only fully integrated platform based completely on open industry standards, such as XML, Web Services, and J2EE.

JDJ: In which areas do you think WebLogic needs more enhancements to compete in the market? For example, I think you need more work on the presentation end.
I'd agree with you if the point regards multichannel presentation services. BEA's current offering around the Web is very powerful, incorporating graphical tools and content management solutions from our strategic partners Macromedia, WebGain, Documentum, Interwoven, and Vignette. However, the multichannel problem is more difficult. While there's a lot of marketing around wireless technology solutions, the industry hasn't yet solved all of the challenges. For example, how can I automatically rerender my content for the diversity of wireless devices - different screen sizes, different browsers and markup languages, and even different interaction models? We've got some very large wireless deployments under our belt, but no one has yet made wireless as easy as the Web is today.

Overall, while I remain well satisfied with BEA's ability to compete, we also must continue to aggressively improve our platform to keep our lead - J2EE-based application integration; business Web services for complex, multiparty, transactional applications; broadly distributed caching and replication; opening up J2EE applications to the line of business manager for access to real-time operational data; and working with our partners on higher-level tools for J2EE application development. These are all areas that we're investing in aggressively.

JDJ: With consolidations and mergers, where do you think the application server market is going? Where does BEA stand in that market?
We believe the J2EE application server represents the predominant platform for e-business applications. For BEA to do well, Java and J2EE must continue to do well. At present, the only emerging alternative appears to be Microsoft's .NET. As .NET continues to flesh out over the coming year, I expect to see increasing and healthy competition between the Java and Microsoft stacks. We all need to help educate the market that the real game is Java and EJB versus C# and COM+, while Web Services and XML are features of both platforms. Indeed, the adoption of the common Web Services stack - SOAP, WSDL, UDDI - offers the Java community the promise of "out-of-the-box" interoperability with Microsoft.

Much as Microsoft and Oracle emerged as the predominant platform for the client/server generation, BEA aspires to offer the server-side platform for "networked" applications or "Web apps." This is a large and growing market, but consolidation is going to continue. The costs associated with delivering a comprehensive e- business platform have doubled over the past couple of years as more and more functions - personalization, clustering, integration, Web Services, wireless, and more - have become built in. The industry will seek to amortize these costs by standardizing on the platforms that are the richest and most ubiquitous. I believe that to date BEA is benefiting most from this consolidation.

JDJ: Does BEA plan to get into actual application design; that is, do you plan to step into industry verticals or do you plan to always be application enablers? Do you plan to continue expansion in horizontal technology offerings?
We'll stay focused on e-business infrastructure. BEA doesn't have the expertise to compete in vertical applications. More important, to do so would alienate our most critical allies - the independent software vendors.

For application design, we do offer professional services to our strategic customers, but that's most often used to validate their use of BEA technologies. We couldn't possibly hope to grow our own professional services organization as fast as the demand. Leveraging our system-integration partners is the only scalable approach.

JDJ: With Commerce Server and Collaborate, aren't you stepping into the same space as some of the B2B solution providers? For example, the companies who build electronic marketplaces? Is this intentional?
Actually, I don't quite buy this. For customers looking for an "out-of-the-box" B2B solution, they should absolutely continue to go to our ISV partners. However, other companies are looking to differentiate via home-built B2B solutions. So this generally comes down to a buy versus build analysis. Provided the underlying platform is J2EE and WebLogic, both approaches offer superior scalability, reliability, integration, and investment protection. So getting the customer to choose a WebLogic and J2EE foundation is BEA's goal.

JDJ: When do you plan to integrate WebLogic Server with Tuxedo? Can you briefly outline for our readers the advantages of such an enterprise environment?
We have very tight integration between WebLogic and Tuxedo today, but don't look for these to become a single product that runs in one address space. The things that make Tuxedo the world's best application server for C and C++, don't work well with Java. BEA is offering our enterprise customers the marriage of the two market leaders - WebLogic Server is the leading Java/Web container, while Tuxedo is the market's leading container for C/C++ (Tux even supports COBOL).

Far more important than merging WebLogic and Tuxedo is tight interoperability between the two. The most recent release of Tuxedo allows direct invocation from Tuxedo to WebLogic EJBs (via IIOP). Of course, we go in the opposite direction as well, allowing Java applications to easily invoke CORBA objects or Tuxedo services. All with security and transaction sharing between the containers.

JDJ: WebLogic 6.0 is a big release for BEA. Would you like to describe the main enhancements as compared to Release 5.1? How many of your current customers have made the switch?
WebLogic Server 6.0 is the platform of choice for nearly all our customers' new applications. In 6.0 we introduced a powerful new management framework built on JMX with a Web-based console, a new scalable, high performance messaging (JMS) engine, major transaction manager enhancements built in Java by the Tuxedo team, along with numerous improvements in installation, ease of use, and in XML.

Now we've gone one better with WebLogic Server 6.1, available at JavaOne. 6.1 adds Web Services automation, J2EE updates (EJB 2.0, JCA, JSP 1.2, Servlet 2.3), and support for caching and replicating "read mostly" entity beans efficiently across a large cluster. Of course, we also have a substantial deployed base of 4.5 and 5.1 users that we'll continue to look after.

JDJ: It seems that all the application server vendors are offering products in the process management space. BEA has entered this space with WebLogic Process Integrator and Collaborate. Do you think that with these environments, the way business applications are designed will change?
We believe integration needs to be designed in from the beginning. Adding these capabilities to the WebLogic platform, along with the Web Services, JCA, JMS and other integration enablers, will enable our customers to build "integration-ready" applications.

JDJ: How well do you integrate with back-end systems? Besides JCA, do you have any partners that you integrate with directly? For example, WebMethods or even BizTalk?
I think that's already happening. For quite some time people have been talking about workflow automation tools, but still hand coding such tasks. But by building applications on J2EE, you're already building in the integration points (EJB, JMS) that a Java-based workflow solution plugs into. The same thing is true for integration - by building on WebLogic you inherit an integration platform for tapping into legacy systems. That allows our ISVs to offer products that are "built to integrate" without having to invest in the integration technology.

JDJ: Do you plan to enhance support for Microsoft environments in the future, or do you plan to continue in a pure Java arena?
Both. We've been committed to integration with the Microsoft platform all along and will continue to do so going forward. We've been providing native integration with IIS (MS Web Server), COM, SQL Server, and the NT registry for several years, and with Web Services we have the promise of "out-of-the-box" interoperation with the Microsoft environment. However, we have no plans to embrace application development in C#. Instead, BEA will continue to ensure that our Java/J2EE-based products work well on the Microsoft platform.

JDJ: How do you plan to address enterprise-level concerns like scalability, robustness, and security?
We think we've done a unique and good job of this already. You might say it's BEA's raison d'etre. BEA software is now running sites with more than 10,000 transactions per second. We've scaled a single Java application to run across a 60-server/240 processor cluster. We're offering Web and EJB session protection that doesn't rely on a single process pair (scaling bottleneck) or writing updates to a DBMS (far too expensive). Count on BEA to do our best to maintain our competitive advantage here.

JDJ: How far have you advanced in the wireless and mobile market? Where do you think this market is going?
We're providing customers with a single platform that they can use for multichannel applications - wireless and wire-line, as well as voice and Web Services. We expect the wireless application market will be very large in a couple of years. Today, the growth is uneven. Northern Europe, Japan, and some other Asian marketplaces are well ahead of the U.S. While I'd argue that this market is not quite mainstream yet, we have many customers that have deployed first-generation wireless applications already.

JDJ: How does XML fit into your overall technology blueprint?
XML has become a fundamental part of the application server, and we've been supporting XML for quite some time. XML clearly plays a big role in Web Services, as well as the other integration services we have built into the overall WebLogic platform.

JDJ: For Java developers who are not familiar with BEA products, what would be a good place to start incorporating them into their existing applications?
Certainly, anyone building or planning to build Web, wireless, or Web Services applications in Java should look at WebLogic as well as our competitors. The sooner the better, since I'm convinced that virtually all server-side Java applications are going to be deployed on application servers for ease of development, manageability, security, quality of service, and so on.

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