Middleware Players Increase Web Focus

Responding to the inertia behind Web-enabled applications and services, BEA Systems (new window), IBM and Hewlett-Packard have all recently announced new middleware offerings that, in some way, make operating an Internet-based environment easier.

During the JavaOne Developer Conference in San Francisco, BEA revealed a new e-business platform that combines its WebLogic Web application server with its portal offering and integration tools. The San Jose Calif.-based e-business infrastructure giant is calling the new release the first platform “that combines application server, Web services, integration and portal technologies into a single, integrated, standards-based e-infrastructure solution.”

Meanwhile, IBM, which is BEA’s closest competition in the application server market, has just announced its latest version of WebSphere Application Server equipped with a variety of new features that streamline the process of deploying Web-accessible software and services.

And HP, which in the wake of its January acquisition of Bluestone Software is trying to become a middleware force, this week announced the addition of support for the Java Services Framework (JSR 111) specification. The move is part of HP’s Core Services Framework, which is the first offering in the middleware market to support the new JSR standard and its accompanying APIs.

HP’s adoption of the JSR 111 specification is a power play of sorts intended to help the Palo Alto-based company quickly gain share on BEA and IBM in the middleware market. The JSR 111 standard is a new specification, and has yet to be approved as part of the J2EE platform.

An open-standards framework, JSR 111 is designed to give developers of Web-based applications more flexibility in creating interoperability between Java application services. Should JSR 111 achieve widespread adoption among the Java developer community, HP would have an edge over the competition in this area of the middleware market.

Daryl Plummer, a group VP and research director with the Gartner Group, says he anticipates JSR 111 will be accepted under the J2EE standard. And he believes HP must continue to find ways to differentiate itself if it wants to compete with BEA and IBM. “HP has not been one of the leaders in [the middleware] market – and they want to be a leader,” says Plummer. “In order to do that they need to do these sort of things.”

Based on the additions BEA, IBM and HP are making to their middleware efforts, support for Web services seems to be moving toward more widespread adoption.

IBM’s 4.0 release of WebSphere Application Server offers greater support than previous versions for Web service standards, including SOAP, UDDI, WSDL, XML and J2EE. By providing developers robust support for these technologies, IBM is showing its commitment to the Web-based software and services community. “It gives them a lot more leverage among the Web-only entrepreneur and Web-only developer,” says Plummer of IBM’s increased focus on Web services.

According to BEA, the most acute need among the e-business community today is the need for applications to talk to each other, both within the enterprise and across the firewall to partners and suppliers. And it is this pressure that most influenced BEA in the development of its new e-business platform.

Like IBM’s WebSphere, BEA’s WebLogic E-Business Platform offers enhanced support for J2EE, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI. And it provides a variety of connectors and application devices that work with these standards to help developers build Web-based solutions.

Tyler McDaniel, director of application strategies for research firm the Hurwitz Group, says that by bringing its middleware pieces together under a single e-business platform BEA is trying to compete with IBM on a broad scale. Despite sentiment to the contrary, McDaniel does not view BEA as the most prominent player in the middleware market, but rather sees IBM in the power position.

“I wouldn’t define [BEA] as the leader in the middleware space at all,” says McDaniel, who feels IBM has more to offer beyond the application server than BEA does. While BEA has been concentrating on establishing its application server as a dominant presence in the middleware market, which it has, IBM has done a nice job developing its integration tools and other ancillary middleware offerings, according to McDaniel.

However, McDaniel believes BEA’s decisions to integrate its middleware offerings under a single platform and to focus more on Web services is a good move and will help improve its position against IBM.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article, which first appeared on ASP insights on Friday, June 8, 2001, was updated with new information on Tuesday, June 12, 2001. The new material was added after ASP insights had the opportunity to speak with the Hurwitz Group's Tyler McDaniel.

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.