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OSGi started out as a way to deploy Java more efficiently in embedded devices and got picked up by the Eclipse developer community as a tool for improving the way integrated development environments (IDEs) are built. But it is now seen as having a key role to play in server-side Java as a means of packaging services and calling them in a service-oriented architecture (SOA) environment.

It is this aspect of OSGi that BEA finds attractive, and that would certainly play to its core enterprise business, but the company believes there is still work left on the server side. "When it gets there it will take you into an easily customized environment," Percival said. The Eclipse Foundation recently confirmed its plans to push ahead with Project Swordfish which will use OSGi and other SOA standards to create a flexible server-side environment.

The big question is what this all means for Oracle. The database giant is a key member of the Eclipse Foundation and chief executive Larry Ellison is a keen advocate of SOA, which would certainly benefit a marriage of Oracle and BEA.

Oracle has also been quietly pushing an embedded strategy. Until now, that's been - surprise, surprise - database centric, with the Oracle database, TimesTen in-memory relational system for data management and caching, Berkeley DB for high-performance and non-relational data and Oracle's Database Lite for mobile systems. Oracle sells licensing or services around these products.

The Berkeley DB, for example - acquired by Oracle some years back - has an estimated 200 million deployments and is used in Linux, BSD Unix, OpenLDAP and OpenOffice to name just a few open-source packages Oracle can make money from.

Embedded, though, is the new black and rivals are getting in on the act. IBM is trying to purchase Telelogic, which specializes in tools for building embedded and real-time civilian and military systems. Add to that, IBM's WebSphere application server and its support for Apache Software Foundation's embedded Java relational database Derby, formerly IBM's Cloudscape product, and you have a deepening commitment to building and embedding middlware.

Sun Microsystems, meanwhile, is also shaping up. In purchasing MySQL, Sun will own a company 60 per cent of whose business comes from being embedded with ISV applications. Sun will surrounded this with its own federated portfolio of open source middleware and tools for building embedded Java applications. The only thing that stands in Sun's way is its own sheer incompetence.

The combination of BEA’s WebLogic running mSA and Oracle’s size and focus, though, provide a credible challenge to both. While BEA had the smarts to realize there was an opportunity outside the enterprise for its respected application server using OSGi and modularity, BEA in latter years has lacked the size and focus to execute and impact the market.

Oracle has the size to take on IBM and the attention span and focus to beat Sun when it comes to putting a small-footprint, embeddable application server and database stack on consumer devices and in third-party applications.

Also, WebLogic is more widely used than Oracle’s existing Java application server, increasing its appeal as a services-based platform and suiting Oracle’s objective in the enterprise heartland on SOA.

Larry Ellison wants to buy BEA so Oracle can become the number-one middleware company, and overtake IBM. A deal, though, will also mean that there is an invigorated alpha male in the embedded systems game.®

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