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Sun Microsystems is challenging database partner Oracle with a middleware offer to woo customers of its newly acquired BEA Systems business.

Sun has capitalized on Oracle jacking up licensing of the BEA middleware products with an offer for its own open-source suite complete with a 12-month price lock in. The offer expires on the day before Halloween, October 30, 2008.

The company is offering WebLogic or Oracle Fusion customers free adaptors to Sun's Java CAPS 6.0 platform. The suite features an enterprise service bus (ESB), event processor, business process management and master data management. As ever, the package features Sun's GlassFish application server and NetBeans integrated development environment (IDE).

Sun's Java CAPs suite is available under a subscription for $120 per employee a year. Also getting chucked in for the price is five free days of SOA consulting from Sun for the first 20 "qualified" customers.

That compares to the new BEA pricing of $25,000 for a single WebLogic Server Enterprise Edition processor license versus $17,000 before Oracle bought BEA.

Such offers are typical following competitive acquisitions. The question in this case, though, is whether BEA WebLogic customers would want to switch.

Java CAPS has a solid heritage and ecosystem of partners delivering plug ins and adaptors for vertical sectors. Open-source meanwhile, potentially, offers the appeal of an end to vendor lock in, as Sun's suite relies on a number of open projects - Open ESB, Mural, GlassFish and NetBeans.

On the flip side, though, Sun is not known as an SOA vendor while Oracle and BEA outguns the company on applications and partner backing on SOAs and middleware. Also, Sun must overcome the fact that BEA's WebLogic application server - the anchor of the combined BEA and Oracle SOA and middleware suite - is regarded as a high-quality product offering.

That brings the subject down to two questions: price versus value, and whether Oracle has done enough to demonstrate to BEA customers it values their continued loyalty.

What is certain is the fact that Sun's offer marks the latest low point in a partnership between two companies that promised in January 2006 to work together for another 10 years.

Since then, Oracle has brushed off Sun's claim it was using NetBeans and has been slowly driving customers to IBM, while Sun has entered the database market by purchasing Oracle's database challenger MySQL.®

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