BEA, ATG shift to tools, apps

As application server vendors face an increasingly commoditized market, they are refocusing efforts on the applications that differentiate them and on extending those wares to one another’s platforms.

Making strides in this direction are BEA Systems Inc., Art Technology Group Inc. (ATG) and CapeClear Software Ltd.

Looking to enhance its tools offerings, BEA Systems Inc., the San Jose, Calif.-based maker of WebLogic, bought Crossgain Corp., a Redmond, Wash.-based start-up founded by former Microsoft executives. Among the 28 employees BEA obtained from Crossgain are former CEO Tod Nielsen and XML guru Adam Bosworth. Other than to confirm that BEA will employ both, officials declined to comment on the title or role either will play moving forward.

From the purchase, BEA obtained no products or intellectual property, said John Kiger, BEA’s director of product marketing.

“We’re acquiring a team of software developers who will help us deliver on our tools strategy,” Kiger said. He declined to comment on exactly what BEA plans to do with Crossgain, which was founded to create services to enable large corporations to run software programs via the Web.

Martin Marshall, an analyst at Zona Research in Redwood City, Calif., expects BEA to use the Crossgain brain trust to fill out its XML and Web services technologies.

“BEA’s XML story was not complete before they bought Crossgain, and there is still more to be built out, particularly on the front end within BEA’s systems,” Marshall said. He also said that Crossgain’s team could help BEA enable communication between XML and Java.

On the Web services side, Marshall pointed out that a number of Crossgain’s developers have been close to Microsoft’s .NET strategy and likely will enhance BEA software’s capability of communicating with Windows and .NET platforms.

BEA’s tools strategy also includes an investment and partnering relationship with WebGain, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based tools vendor.

Also looking to expand to other platforms, ATG cut its applications loose from its own application server and enabled them to run on competitors’ application servers.

Cambridge, Mass.-based ATG’s CEO, Jeet Singh, said that the company remains distinctive in the applications market, where it earns most of its revenue.

ATG applications, including a commerce server, scenario server, and personalization server, will be capable of running on application servers from BEA, Hewlett-Packard Co., and iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions.

Whereas ATG plans to add support for IBM’s application server in the future, Cape Clear, a Dublin, Ireland-based application server vendor, broadened the reach of its Web services platform by making it compatible with IBM Corp.’s WebSphere.

Meanwhile, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems Inc. gained another Java 2 Enterprise Edition ally in Sonic Software Corp., the Bedford, Mass.-based messaging middleware company of Progress Software Corp., which became compliant with Sun’s Java Message Service software.

Just as application servers become commodities, market leaders are in a tight race for dominance, according to a recent report from Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. In 2000, BEA led the application server market with an 18.2 per cent market share although IBM, with a 15.4 per cent share, gained on BEA. HP, iPlanet, and Oracle are also taking on BEA for customers.

“BEA is fighting the larger battle now (and) has awakened to the wrath of sleeping giants,” Zona’s Marshall said.