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BEA Systems is buying an object/relational mapping specialist to simplify development of Java applications and compete with open and closed source rivals.

BEA has bought SolarMetric and announced plans to support the company's Kodo persistence engine in its WebLogic Server 9.5, due in the second half of 2006, and Workshop development environment. Financial terms of the deal were not revealed.

Kodo allows developers to build data-based applications without needing to know too much about SQL or the design of a relational database.

The important thing for BEA is that Kodo provides bindings for Java Data Objects (JDO) in addition to Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs), architectures that are endorsed by the Java Community Process (JCP). Support for JDO makes Kodo "a leader in standards-based persistence engines," according to BEA. The company is a keen supporter of JDO.

Acquisition, though, makes BEA more of a player against open and closed source competitors. Persistence engines are set to become an integral part of Java after BEA's open source rival JBoss worked with the JCP to help add persistence to the latest EJB implementation, version 3.0.

JBoss is a leading proponent of object/relational persistence through the open source Hibernate project. Hibernate also overcomes complexities inherent in programming to SQL and relational databases, and exceeds the EJB specification by having added features such as the ability to do bulk loads.

In the closed-source world, meanwhile, Oracle bought TopLink in 2002 to add an object/relational mapping layer between Java applications and its database and simplify development of Java applications for its platform.

Side-stepping mention of JBoss - which has been hurting its business - BEA said the acquisition means it now offers an independent alternative to database vendors at the web and data access layer: "We are in a nice position to go after Oracle and [IBM] Websphere deployments in markets that are attached to the database and make it a little more agnostic out there," a BEA spokesperson said.

JBoss vice president of strategy and corporate development Bob Bickel told The Register BEA was late in its adoption of persistence technology and doubted it could penetrate a large-scale developer market. "The market is already there and moving. BEA are doing it for their high-end user - they have no mass-market appeal, they have no mechanism to have 80,000 downloads a month that Hibernate has. It's a move to shore-up their space." ®

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