BEA Systems last month unveiled a new version of its application server and a companion application development environment.
As part of an overall effort to be seen as the new standard-bearer for Java in the enterprise, BEA launched Version 7.0 of its WebLogic application server and a new development environment called WebLogic Workshop, previously code-named Cajun.
In addition, the company released WebLogic Enterprise - which bundles the company's applications servers, portal, and EAI (enterprise application integration) tools in a single offering - and it will launch a developer program called dev2dev.
BEA is looking to replicate Microsoft's approach to the Windows developer community in the Java community by launching its own development environment and by providing better integration between its application server and third-party tools from companies such as Borland, Rational, IBM, WebGain and Sun.
Although BEA is starting to resemble Microsoft with its developer strategy, analysts said the company is actually going after its J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) rivals, namely IBM and Sun.
"Now that app servers are becoming commoditised, BEA has to figure out how to make money. BEA wants to make it so that developers can more easily build for WebLogic," said Neal Goldman, an analyst at The Yankee Group.
Goldman added that by offering tools to make it easier to develop on the front end, BEA is encouraging developers to use BEA as the back-end infrastructure.
As part of the effort, Version 7.0 adds
support for J2EE 1.3, Web services, and asynchronous transactions across a set of loosely coupled applications.
By providing an easy-to-use, visual tool for Java developers, BEA is trying to mirror Microsoft's approach to Visual Studio .Net by increasing the size of the Java community.
BEA's tool was originally developed at CrossGain under the leadership of former Microsoft executive Adam Bosworth. BEA acquired CrossGain, where Bosworth now serves as vice president of engineering. "CrossGain was early in Web services, and so BEA's acquisition showed foresight," said Michele Rosen, an IDC analyst.
"BEA has absolutely the right idea. This is the Holy Grail to have a Visual Basic-like development environment for Java," Rosen said. "If BEA is able to execute, it could be significant."
BEA plans to seduce developers who find most IDEs (integrated development environments) in this space too difficult to master.