Web application specialist BEA thinks a worldwide squeeze on IT spending will hasten the commoditisation of the bits that make e-business possible, a prospect which clearly suits the US company.
The head marketer in its e-commerce application components division, Robert Duffner, claims the trend is already evident.
“The application server was once seen as ‘middleware’; it’s now part of the platform,” notes Duffner, who was in the country earlier this month.
The platform definition is expanding further, to take in standard ways of connecting enterprise applications both within and between businesses, says Duffner. Aspects such as “personalisation” – the way a business tracks the behaviour of an end-user and presents itself in a way more “friendly” to that user and tailored to his/her interests – could become part of the “platform”, he says, rather than something the business spends a lot of energy hand-crafting.
BEA is building on its popular Weblogic e-business server with a new Version 6.1, and a web integration server incorporating J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) connector architecture.
The latter will ease integration between new standard e-business solutions and legacy applications such as ERP systems, Duffner says. Sitting above that layer will be BEA’s Weblogic portal.
Web services are all part of the picture, and BEA is looking to reclaim “mind share” for the Java-based approach to web services, as against the major Microsoft .Net push.
Web integration is “still in the early-adopter phase”, Duffner acknowledges. “A few customers are prototyping it.”
Implementation demands a good deal of preparation of existing applications.
"Everything has to be XML-ready – XML is the way you get data and services out of the legacy systems.”
BEA claims to have invented the concept of web services, being ahead of IBM in their evolution. As for Microsoft, “that’s another whole religion”, Duffner says.
The debate on the way to approach e-business design was between COM (Microsoft) and Corba until last year, says Duffner. No one saw Java bursting onto that scene. “But in April 2000, the dam broke.” Vendors who used to see Java as “too risky” realised its opportunities, particularly those on the Corba side.
“You can track the decline of Broadvision, ATG [Art Technology Group] and others from the fact that they didn’t make the right decision at that point,” he says.
The web services market will split into two, Duffner says. Services provided for the pure consumer, and as an ASP-type component for businesses to build into systems will be charged for; but those used to “reduce the friction” in dealings between businesses will come free of charge, he says, because it is in the interest of the provider business to ensure they are used.