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BEA thinks modular for lightweight SOA platform

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BEAWorld 2006 BEA Systems is making modules of its middleware, in a move to help developers build services oriented architectures (SOAs).

BEA today opened the BEAWorld Conference in San Francisco, by announcing microServices Architecture (MSA), a Java- and XML-based architecture for WebLogic, AquaLogic and Tuxedo. But don't hold your breath - this won't see daylight before the end of 2008.

According to BEA, MSA will fuel greater deployment of its middleware, and foster opportunities in embedded systems and appliances, which do not require a full application server to run. Tomorrow at BEAWorld, the company is expected to demonstrate a hardware appliance running its software.

Bill Roth, vice president of BEA's Workshop business unit, told The Register the new architecture "will help us refactor the enterprise product family, so its lightweight and more adaptable". MSA will also help BEA deliver new versions of its products quickly, he added.

Also announced today is WorkSpace 360, four environments for developers, architects, data center staff and business analysts to architect and build business processes; processes are stored in a centralized metadata repository. BEA aims to give users a view of artifacts in the repository tailored to their needs. Due out next year, WorkSpace 360 is based on the Flashline repository, accquired last month.

MSA and WorkSpace 360 are part of BEA's latest SOA strategy, called SOA 360. BEA is a year into SOA with AquaLogic, which said now forms 20 per cent of revenue, said CEO Alfred Chuang.

SOA 360 is different to BEA's previous efforts because it provides a common infrastructure, according to chief marketing officer Marge Breya: "It's not enough to have products that are separate on a platform. It's important to have a common architecture. Any great platform has an architecture," she said.

The religion of a common web services layer to unify and modularize software platforms has already been adopted by some big application and infrastructure providers. Oracle, a strong contender for second place in the Java application server market, is pushing Fusion Middleware and business applications giant has NetWeaver.

Oracle and SAP are also working on environments that will enable business analysts to visually compose processes and deploy them in software, rather than hard coding processes into applications. The duo also hope to extend their middleware by attracting new developers who'd build composite applications.

IBM has modularized its software for at least two years, with a roadmap that has seen it blend elements of WebSphere with Lotus and Tivoli.

The difference between these companies and BEA, according to BEA's Chuang? "I don't think these rivals of ours are doing what we are doing today. The difference between AquaLogic and the competition is ours works. It installs in a single install, the first time," he said.

Hard details of SOA 360 are lacking, but BEA says MSA will use a number of key protocols and standards including OSGi, SOAP, WSDL, SAML, JSP and JSR-168.

BEA appears to group these specifications and its technologies into four buckets - backplane components, application frameworks, activity services and presentation services. Indicating how SOA 360 could work, it seems OSGi will be used in BEA's tools, to help automatically discover other tools and extensions.

"The fundamental tenet of the model," said Roth, "is you have pieces that are pluggable. OSGi is a well known protocol... it will make it easy for customers to plug into your infrastructure."

We're not finished with BEA yet. It slipped out another announcement today, an automated online support service for WebLogic Server. Called BEA Guardian, it detects and analyzes problems in WebLogic Server and recommends fixes and gives users the ability to install a service pack with one click. It uses signature patterns to spot and fix problems. ®

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