WebLogic 8.1 marks a transition point for BEA Systems

By Yefim V. Natis

Gartner Research


On 15 July 2003, BEA announced the general availability of BEA WebLogic Platform 8.1, which includes:

– BEA WebLogic Workshop (WLW) 8.1

– WebLogic Integration (WLI) 8.1

– WebLogic Portal (WLP) 8.1

– The previously available BEA WebLogic Server (WLS) 8.1 and JRockit 8.1

First Take

Release 8.1 of WebLogic marks a milestone in BEA’s evolution. The key component of the release is WLW, the innovative unifying development framework for BEA’s extended application platform suite (APS). In 8.1, BEA has made a strategic investment in its technology and organization; it has updated WLP and WLS, and largely rewritten WLI to best fit the WLW architectural model. Success of the WLW application model will translate into success and new momentum for the entire WebLogic product family. Failure of WLW will likely make BEA a willing candidate for acquisition.

WLW aims to simplify the engineering of Java/Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) applications without losing the advantage of Java portability. BEA hopes that Visual Basic-like ease-of-use for Java will attract massive numbers of mainstream development projects whose participants have stayed away from BEA products because of the relative complexity of J2EE. WLW also aims to provide a native environment for the design of service-oriented architecture (SOA). By supporting the service-oriented development of applications, BEA is one of the first in the market to deliver a full-fledged development platform for SOA. BEA counts on the momentum of Web services to lead new customer projects to WebLogic 8.1.

To achieve these goals, BEA had to extend J2EE with innovative but proprietary extensions. Its development environment and runtime environment are intimately tied to the point that the model works only in the BEA technology context. The programming model of WLW is unique to BEA. Although all vendors’ platforms entail some lock-in, enterprises must find the appeal of WLW strong enough to accept a greater-than-usual degree of vendor dependence. This vendor dependence is inevitable for a radical improvement of productivity over native J2EE. BEA competitors will require a similar or greater degree of dependence. First to market, BEA will have to face the objections to the proprietary nature of WLW, but in the long term, this won’t represent the primary challenge to its success.

Other challenges that BEA faces in its new initiative include the development of new sales channels, new partnership models and the need for a new lightweight middleware platform to match the mass-market appeal of WLW’s “easy J2EE” marketing message.


BEA customers should evaluate WebLogic 8.1 with the understanding that access to WLW will be the primary reason to migrate to WebLogic 8.1 by late 2003 or early 2004.

Prospective customers should recognize that while WLS and WLP are well-proven technologies, WLW and WLI are mostly new and production-untested code.

All APS customers should recognize the innovation in WLW and examine its new model. Most APS vendors will likely deliver competitive alternatives to WLW by mid-2004.

Analytical Source: Yefim Natis, Gartner Research

Recommended Reading and Related Research

“WebLogic 8.1: The New BEA in Action” – BEA customers should demand assurances that BEA’s search for new markets doesn’t distract it from support and reinforcement of its established market strengths and commitments . By Yefim Natis and Massimo Pezzini

“Application Platform Suites: The Shape of Things to Come” – By 2007, most midsize and large enterprises will likely use application platform suite technology in some of their projects or across their multiple projects. By Yefim Natis

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