Oracle Lays out BEA Product Strategy

Oracle executives described the company's plans to integrate its products with those of BEA Systems in exhaustive detail during a nearly two-hour webcast on Tuesday.

Oracle closed a US$8.5 billion deal for middleware maker BEA in April, capping off a lengthy and rancorous bid process that produced a churn of counter-offers, public sparring and shareholder saber-rattling. But Tuesday's meeting was the first time executives spelled out a detailed strategy for combining the companies' product sets, which overlap in some areas.

"Middleware is a very complex area. We want to provide a complete backbone for developing and deploying SOA," said Oracle's president, Charles Phillips.

All BEA products will continue under existing support timelines, with "no forced migration at all," Phillips said.

But moving forward, the combined company's middleware and infrastructure catalog will be broken into three categories: strategic; "continue and converge" and "maintenance," said Thomas Kurian, senior vice president, Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Strategic products will be Oracle's high-end offerings. BEA assets flagged for the "continue and converge" category will be "incrementally redesigned" to incorporate Oracle's Fusion Middleware stack, and continued for "at least nine years," Kurian said.

Meanwhile, products BEA had put into maintenance mode prior to the acquisition will remain that way, under their existing terms, he said.

Oracle plans to conduct a tour to further explain its plans to customers and partners, and has set up a voluminous repository of information about the combined product strategy on its Web site. Among the highlights:

-- BEA WebLogic Server is now Oracle's lead application server, but Oracle will continue developing its own application server. "Particularly for [Oracle] E-Business Suite customers, you will not need to migrate to WebLogic," Kurian said.

-- Oracle will adopt BEA's JRockit as its go-to JVM (Java virtual machine), but this doesn't mean it will stop supporting other JVM implementations, according to Kurian.

-- Oracle plans to converge its ESB (enterprise service bus) with its BEA counterpart. The latter had a "lot of highly elegant features," Kurian said. Both BEA and Oracle ESB customers will get an automatic upgrade to the new product, according to Kurian.

-- Oracle WebCenter will remain the company's lead portal software. BEA's WebLogic Portal will continue to be developed and integrated over time with WebCenter Framework.

While Kurian argued that Oracle has already made great strides in the roughly six weeks since the deal closed, numerous challenges still lie ahead for the company due to product overlap, according to Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with the SOA consultancy ZapThink.

"On the plus side, however, Oracle has a good track record in supporting the customers of acquired companies," he said in an e-mail message. "They know the BEA acquisition was mostly about customer acquisition, so they're likely to bend over backwards to keep BEA's customers around. But on the technology side, the integration will keep their hands full."

The deal also has ramifications for non-Oracle and BEA customers that are exploring middleware options, notes a Forrester Research report written prior to the sale.

"Shops that want to retain an independent middleware vendor as competitive leverage against their major suppliers will now have to look to smaller, more risky suppliers, to open-source software, and to second-tier providers like Sun and Software AG," the authors wrote.

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