BEA Revamps, Re-Launches EII tool

Far from being a BEA-only deliverable, ALDSP is a bona-fide EII contender, analysts say.

BEA Systems Inc. might not be the first vendor that comes to mind when you think about enterprise information integration (EII), but the J2EE specialist is actually something of a stalwart in the EII arena, thanks to its early partnerships with EII startups (such as XQuery specialist Enosys) and its seminal stake—via its ever-expanding WebLogic software portfolio—in enterprise integration.

BEA last week added another feather to its EII cap, touting a new version 2.5 release of its AquaLogic Data Services Platform (ALDSP). Boasting native integration with BEA’s AquaLogic Service Bus (ALSB), a bilingual SQL and XQuery engine, and a Microsoft Excel add-in to boot, ALDSP helps flesh out BEA’s AquaLogic data integration story. Nor was that all. BEA also thickened the data integration plot by announcing an OEM relationship with StrikeIron Inc., a provider of Excel-based Web services. The J2EE giant announced plans incorporate StrikeIron’s OnDemand Web Services for Microsoft Excel into ALDSP 2.5 to help feed back-end data to Excel client users.

BEA’s announcements are long overdue. It’s one of a handful of application server vendors that also fields an EII component—along with IBM Corp., which markets its WebSphere Application Server (WAS), and which pushes a range of WebSphere-oriented integration technologies (including its Information Integrator EII tools), and Oracle Corp. (which markets its own eponymous application server, and which touts a database-focused EII vision). But while IBM has aggressively expanded its EII and data integration capabilities (largely by dint of acquisition), BEA has been comparatively quiet. Until now.

“ALDSP 2.5 provides native integration with [ALSB], so that ALDSP 2.5’s data services can be directly and securely invoked by reporting tools and other applications over a custom ALSB transport path, using remote method invocation,” writes James Kobielus, a principal analyst for data management with consultancy Current Analysis Inc. Moreover, Kobielus points out, ALDSP 2.5 is a bona-fide EII competitor, incorporating as it does a native bilingual SQL/XQuery engine that enables the delivery of real-time views of business data from relational and non-relational sources alike.

Then there’s the new Excel add-in, which lets users access, query, and aggregate live data via a drag-and-drop interface.

Put it all together, Kobielus argues, and you’ve got an important deliverable—for BEA in particular and for the EII market space as a whole.

“BEA’s announcement was a necessity for the vendor to keep ALDSP competitive in the growing EII segment, which includes offerings from such rivals as Business Objects, Composite Software, IBM, InetSoft, Informatica, Ipedo, MetaMatrix, and Sybase,” he writes. “BEA has tightened ALDSP integration with the … [ESB] that is at the core of its new microService Architecture (mSA) for SOA. It has implemented a bilingual SQL/XQuery engine that enables transparent SOA access to all data sources, including XML Web services. In addition, its new ALDSP plug-in [for] Microsoft Excel supports real-time BI in which myriad data sources are delivered transparently and live to the desktop.”

Not that ALDSP is a slam dunk. For one thing—and unlike competitors IBM and Oracle—BEA doesn’t have a fully realized information management vision. It has only ALDSP. “Beyond EII [which is] the focus of ALDSP… BEA lacks the other features for a full-fledged master data management (MDM) environment, including such critical functionality as BI, DW, DQ, and ETL,” Kobielus argues. In addition, he points out, BEA still hasn’t effectively made its case for ALDSP 2.5 in the fiercely competitive EII space—apart, Kobielus stresses, from tighter RMI-based integration with its own ESB products. That might make ALDSP a go-to EII source in BEA environments, but gives other customers little, if any, incentive to look BEA’s way—unless they’re mulling a move to SOA or considering a rip-and-replace of existing Web application server solutions, that is.

So, too, do some of the new ALDSP 2.5 amenities merely amount to a kind of competitive catch-up, at least vis-à-vis offerings from best-of-breed providers such as Composite or Ipedo. “BEA’s implementation of a bilingual SQL/XQuery engine and Excel desktop integration in ALDSP 2.5 are important, but these enhancements come late in the game to a segment in which many vendors have already implemented these features,” Kobielus comments.

Notwithstanding the absence of game-changing innovations, Kobielus lauds BEA’s newest AquaLogic deliverable as a bona-fide EII competitor. “[ALDSP 2.5] is a strong product in a growing market segment. It is a mature EII offering that integrates tightly with BEA’s ESB middleware environment, accesses… data sources transparently in real time, and provides a user-friendly Excel plug-in for pulling live data into user spreadsheets,” he concludes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.