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BEA Systems is buying tools vendor M7 in a deal calculated to expand BEA's popularity among developers by combining support for open and closed source software.

BEA plans to merge its existing WebLogic Workshop Java web services environment with M7's NitroX integrated development environment (IDE) to deliver BEA Workshop for Java IDE, for use across all of BEA's products. That potentially means support for BEA's WebLogic application server, portal and integration software and the AquaLogic service oriented architecture (SOA) family.

The Eclipse-based NitroX combines support for popular open source frameworks - Apache's Struts framework and the Hibernate object/relational and persistence query engine - with Java Server Faces (JSF) and Java Server Pages (JSP). BEA said M7 would become a "key component" to its tools strategy.

The deal, BEA's second acquisition this month, builds out what BEA is calling a "blended" application strategy that combines open source and closed source.

Faced with increasing competition from companies like JBoss and rising popularity of open source frameworks and movements like Eclipse, BEA has been forced to embrace open source in an attempt turn it to the company's advantage.

BEA announced an open source implementation of its Workshop framework called Beehive in 2004, a framework designed to take developers only so far in terms of scalability and security before they had to jump onboard the full BEA framework.

Eschewing full membership of Eclipse at the time, BEA instead proposed an Eclipse project called Pollinate that was designed to support Beehive while also donating Beehive to Apache. Four years after Eclipse was formed, though, BEA finally joined in 2005 and announced plans to ship future versions of Workshop on Eclipse.

Buying M7 means a greater ability for BEA to target developers on diverse development and runtime platforms. Beyond BEA's own WebSphere, M7's modules support JBoss, Resin, Tomcat, IBM's WebSphere, Mortbay Jetty, Linux and Windows.

On paper, BEA is well placed to pick up developers targeting these platforms simply by owning M7. Experience has shown, though, BEA has lacked the ability to win over developers in large numbers - the inability meet its own target of recruiting one million developers to Workshop in a single year is now legendary. Furthermore, BEA actually risks losing existing M7 users should the integration with Workshop be handled badly.®

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