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Oracle's WebLogic roadmap recaptures BEA's dream

Just enough app server for ya?

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OpenWorld 09 Oracle could to do what BEA Systems failed to achieve in the next two years: successfully deliver on a modular and virtualized roadmap for its Java application server.

The database giant Monday outlined a two-year WebLogic roadmap that will see Oracle start to roll out an early set of lightweight WebLogic modules built using the OSGi framework. Oracle will be delivering on the microServices articulated by BEA in 2006.

The idea was to break up WebLogic's monolithic Java Enterprise Edition code base into a series of modules that shrunk the footprint and let developers use just the features they wanted. The goal was to make it possible to deploy WebLogic in embedded systems, where processing and memory are limited resources and where success would mean expansion on devices like appliances.

While BEA managed to modularize a large part of the WebLogic architecture, it ultimately lacked the resources, scale, and leadership to deliver the modular WebLogic before to market before Oracle bought it in 2008. We first noted the potential for the microServices architecture inside Oracle here.

Oracle, meanwhile, has also promised to start customer deployments of the old BEA's WebLogic Server Virtual Edition in the next six months. WebLogic Server Virtual Edition was a virtualized environment built to bypass the operating system and put the application on the metal, to speed performance and cut infrastructure costs. WebLogic Virtual Edition began life as JRockit Liquid VM, also during 2006.

"The intent is to increase utilization from virtualization technology so you are not paying for the over head and cost of an operating environment," senior director of product management for WebLogic server and Java infrastructure Mike Lehman told OpenWorld. "This is an important investment."

Lehman was speaking Monday as he outlined Oracle's WebLogic technology roadmap for 2010 and 2011. Oracle will group planned features in to three broad buckets: a "just enough application server", high-end shared-services infrastructure, and WebLogic serving as a foundation for Oracle's Fusion Middleware and Fusion Applications.

Support for OSGi will fit in the "just enough" bucket and seems geared at targeting developers and towards providing a faster time to market from the development shop.

BEA's tactical inertia on OSGi came at a time of great debate over how Java EE had become bloated with too many APIs. The company's hesitation allowed frameworks such as Spring to step up and feed developers' need for a light-weight Java container.

Other features coming in the "just enough" bucket are Java Enterprise Edition 6.0 - which will also support modularity, Zip file delivery, integration with Maven, and continuous builds.

Support for Apple's OS X is also being given "serious thought." This is an interesting twist for an enterprise software platform, but not before time given the large number of Macs now used by application developers.

The high-end-shared services busket will target data centers running tens of thousands of servers, Lehman said. It will include application grouping, virtualization awareness, greater RAC awareness for fast connection and fail over, native support for Coherence, and high-end messaging through use of JMS.

The foundation for Fusion Middleware and Fusion Applications bucket will target customers running lots of Oracle applications and see common lifecycle management in areas like installation, deployment from testing through to production, upgrade, and provisioning.

"We need to make it more like a Microsoft Office environment where it just installs and there's great integration up and down the sack and above the stack," Lehman said.

Breaking that down into what to expect in 2010 and 2011, Lehman made it sound like we can expect two updates to WebLogic. WebLogic 11g R2 followed by WebLogic 12g.

WebLogic 11g R2 in 2010 will see RAC and Coherence integrated to make them native in the application server. WebLogic will get RAC event awareness, providing fast connection and fail over, while Coherence will be managed as part of WebLogic - currently it's an external application.

Other features will focus on incremental improvements around high availability, web services and security, Java EE updates, and management via Oracle's Grid Control 3.0.

The following year should see WebLogic 12g along with Fusion Middleware 12g.

Lehman said to expect modularity and server profiles using OSGI as the specification matured along with support for "next-generation" standards such as Java EE and WS-* - the Web-Services umbrella originally stewarded by IBM and Microsoft during the early 2000s. Also promised is a "large-scale operations and administration focus" on grid "enablement" and continued investment in the "development experience." ®

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