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BEA adopts virtual strategy with VMware

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BEA Systems has teamed up with VMware to deliver the first instalment of a Java virtualisation strategy to rollout in 2007.

The middleware vendor is planning a version of its WebLogic Server - WebLogic Server Virtual Edition - that will run on VMware's ESX hypervisor. The application server is due for release in March.

The application server will run on a version of BEA's Java Virtual Machine (JVM) called LiquidVM, that has been suped-up with basic operating system capabilities like process management, scheduling threads, and networking.

Also planned is WebLogic Liquid Operations Control, which will act as a layer between the JVM and application server, and tools from VMware and the likes of IBM Tivoli for diagnostics and management. APIs for WebLogic Liquid Operations Control will be exposed for integration with third-parties' software.

WebLogic Liquid Operations Control will act as a "super bus" ferrying information and allowing administrators to apply service level agreement policies. WebLogic Liquid Operations Control is due in summer 2007.

The concept of running the application server on the metal should help BEA take a fresh stab at selling its middleware in a market where differentiation is tough and the competition harder still.

The company expects to help restore performance gains lost by introducing virtualisation with the operating system and middleware stack while also helping customers to reap the usual gains associated with server virtualisation technology, such as cost savings and recovery of data centre floor space.

BEA is, in effect, cutting out the operating system by using a version of its fast-performing JRockit JVM to talk directly to the hardware and hypervisor.

BEA could be letting itself down, though, in three areas. With three months to go on the application server, BEA is still reviewing pricing. The company's track record on virtualisation isn't too promising, though, having picked a multiplier for chips with more than two cores instead of taking the honest route of one license per chip regardless of cores. BEA, don't forget, has held out on $10,000 per CPU while IBM and JBoss have been undercutting BEA on price.

Next, BEA's strategy is still forming. So far, none of BEA's other product have been certified to VMware, while WebLogic Server Virtual Edition is the existing WebLogic Server 9.2 running on the new virtual machine, according to BEA. BEA said it might release elements of the virtualisation stack as a single product.

The final potential drawback is BEA's decision to ally itself with the expensive VMware. BEA might consider the open source Xen, Microsoft's hypervisor and it said it's looking at Solaris containers, but has no plans - as yet - to support other virtualisation technologies.

BEA appears to be banking on the fact VMware is the market leader and a relatively mature offering, unlike Microsoft and Xen.

Larry Cable, BEA's chief architect of WebLogic products, promised BEA intended to be "hypervisor agnostic".

In other BEA news, the company is also this week expected to announce WebLogic Server 10, updated to the latest Java Enterprise Edition (EE) 5.0 specification, and JRockit Mission Control 2.0, featuring instrumentation and telemetry for improved management. ®

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