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It's a head-scratcher of a deal. Two big names in the same market with overlapping offerings. Surely the only justification for spending so much money is to buy customers to leapfrog the industry number one.

No, I'm not talking of Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo!. I'm referring to Oracle's $8.5bn offer for Java middleware rival BEA Systems.

Customer roster aside, though, there is one thing BEA has that Oracle could be interested in. The building blocks of a strategy that might put Oracle-owned middleware on ever-smaller, embedded devices outside the enterprise.

Back in 2006 BEA Systems said it planned to revamp its middleware products around a new microService Architecture (mSA) - and then went very quiet about it. The ambitious plan involved rebundling the various components of products such as WebLogic Server using the Java-based OSGi standard with the aim of improving performance.

The goal was also to open up potential new markets for embedded service applications. OSGi is used on Java mobile phone and in-car systems, for example.

Despite its low public profile, BEA's engineers have not been idle and mSA-based development is now well advanced. It underpins two of BEA's key products - WebLogic Event Server and WebLogic Real Time server. More importantly, it will figure in the forthcoming release of WebLogic 10.3 due later this year.

"MSA has been hidden under the covers but a lot has been happening since 2006. The mSA technology is already making its way into our products," Martin Percival, BEA's European marketing director told Register Developer.

"Originally we saw it as a way to split products across the market - but now we are seeing a wider role for it. The OSGi standard gives us a well-defined interface and a good way to deploy and maintain service components. It gives us a better way to control services and to carry out fine-grain testing," he continued.

"It helps us cope with areas such as complex event processing because we can mix and match. This means we can respond more quickly in making new products. In the WebLogic Real Time Server, for example, we have made the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) more efficient by using mSA and in WebLogic 10.3... we will take the OSGi ideas to reduce immediate downloads," Percival explained.

BEA is now in discussions with independent software vendors (ISVs) about using mSA to customize their BEA middleware-based applications. "They might, for example, want to emphasize messaging and not use other aspects of a product. With mSA they don't have to buy the whole suite."

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