BEA Abuzz About Project Beehive

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted May 20, 2004


BEA Systems boosted the service-oriented architecture buzz Wednesday when it unveiled "Project Beehive" as an open source foundation. BEA open sourced its development platform to make life easier for Java programmers; rival JBoss CEO Marc Fleury throws some stingers at the company.

The goal is to make it easier and more efficient to write applications and build service-oriented architectures (SOAs) using Java.

The move is designed to position Java development against companies that don't use the programming language, most notably Microsoft and its .NET platform. But while the move was praised by one industry analyst, main competitor JBoss was less charitable with comments about the project.

The Buzz on Beehive

Not to be confused with other open-source application server offerings like JBoss, Beehive is the donation of the San Jose, Calif. company's WebLogic Workshop application framework, a development environment for BEA's runtime software products, according to BEA CTO Scott Dietzen.

It is geared to make writing Java software more efficient, at a time when companies are struggling to craft Web services architectures for application-to-application communication and SOAs as more broad models of distributed computing.

During a conference call, Dietzen said the release is the industry's first open application framework and is targeted at SOA and Web Java application. Project Beehive is expected to be available this summer for free under an open-source license. All future development of the platform will be done in the open source community, he said. More than 50 component, tool, and platform vendors (including Borland, VERITAS and Red Hat) have pledged to support the initiative.

As if to prove BEA's altruistic merit, Dietzen said on the call that competing Java-based products from vendors such as IBM and Oracle will run on Workshop if developed using the framework.

"By outsourcing the application framework, applications built using that framework, whether they're built inside of the BEA Workshop IDE or any other IDE that supports this framework, those applications can run on WebLogic and non-WebLogic Java containers, so for both competing products, as well as open source offerings, we're providing portability for Workshop-based applications to those other containers."

In practical terms, where there used to be proprietary vendor lock-in for certain features and applications created in Workshop, the applications can now run on WebSphere, JBoss, and Tomcat, the last of which BEA has pledged to port to first with Beehive this summer.

Technically Speaking

After the call, Cornelius Willis, told internetnews.com that the move unknots a lot of the tedious code writing associated with Java, a language criticized by some as too difficult to program with, and for not being disposed to reusable assets.

Microsoft generally wins praise for the ease of use and reusability of components in the .NET environment. Now, BEA is hoping to bring similar degrees of efficiency to the drudgery of Java development.

Willis said Project Beehive leverages WebLogic Workshop's Controls, reusable meta-data driven software components based on drag-and-drop technology that can easily integrate into BEA and other software platforms.

"This is about making J2EE as easy to use as .NET," Willis said, noting that BEA hopes to make Workshop a comfortable environment where IBM and Oracle can not only work on application server development but "control the payload of the reusable parts that plug into the framework."

Willis, who worked on Microsoft's Visual Basic team from 1991 to 1995 and knows a bit about reusing assets, wants Beehive to be viewed as a liberating donation for Java development (including for competitors like IBM) as much as it is an attempt to curry more developer favor in place of Microsoft and its .NET platform.

Beehive also features Web services programming capabilities that allow for easier consumption and management of services, and page flows, which can help developers define and view page transitions between applications. It also comes with an open-sourced runtime environment, rather than a development environment to allow open IDEs like Eclipse to participate.

Beehive's Bittersweet Honey

Meta Group Senior Program Director Thomas Murphy praised the move.

"They need to get more noise going around Workshop and the frameworks and this will help get it out from being 'proprietary,' Murphy said. "They have some good concepts around Web services and programming model and this will allow a broader community to help evolve these which hopefully will make them things that can move into the Java Community Process and through to standards faster."

But JBoss CEO and Founder Marc Fleury, whose company makes a competing open-source application server, blasted the news. He noted that "clear open source is very powerful as a competitive weapon" and that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

"I'd heard that rumor [that BEA was going to open source its IDE] long ago but I just think they are doing it for the wrong reasons," Fleury told internetnews.com. "Open source is not a silver bullet, not something that turns a dog into something great. There are a lot of misconceptions that if you put something in open source, it will be a winner. But I just think BEA is going to open source by default because they don't have a better strategy."

Dietzen responded: "I can't imagine how donating technology and making it available for JBoss customers as well as WebSphere, Tomcat, and other customers is harming to any Java vendors business. This should be helpful for the whole of the Java community."

Fleury also said Eclipse is already a sufficient IDE and that IBM was about the only successful company he could think of to take a proprietary technology and unleash it successfully into the open source community, as it did with Eclipse.

"BEA has been running around for two years looking for a competitive advantage in its platform and they figure if there is no value in it, then they might as well open source it to turn it into a winner," he said.

Fleury admitted he is irked by companies that use open source as a "dustbin" for failed proprietary projects.

"There isn't a week that goes by that somebody who is running out of money calls me for recommendations about how to go open source," he said. "It's not a silver bullet, it's not the promised land, and, in fact, it's more difficult. "I have serious reservations about how and why they're [BEA] doing it."

To be sure, BEA's Beehive news, coming just days before its eWorld conference in San Francisco, seems pointed at trumping negativity surrounding the company's sub par first quarter results, in which BEA missed its software license revenue target.

Revenue from software licenses dropped 2 percent to $120 million year-over-year, even though BEA reported total revenues of $262.6 million, up 11 percent from $237.3 million in last year's first quarter.

"We signed 17 license deals over $1 million dollars in Q1. While this is the most we've ever signed in a Q1, we are disappointed that we did not meet our license revenue plans, especially in the Americas," said Alfred Chuang, BEA's founder, chairman and CEO.

Still, analysts appear to be taking those numbers with a grain of salt. Meta's Murphy, for one, said Beehive provides pre-buzz for E-World and gets news out ahead of Microsoft's TechEd conference next week "because they know that Microsoft will announce lots of new stuff there."

Murphy also said Beehive helps BEA "put a stake in the ground as a driver in the Java market," a key stance in the enterprise software space.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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