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Issue of December 2002 
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In Person: Application Infrastructure
‘Application Infrastructure makes enterprises more productive’

IT managers agree that managing corporate technology can be a nightmare, what with new applications constantly being developed and deployed. Michael F. Smith-Jr., Principal Technologist-CTO Office, BEA Systems, says one does not need dozens of solutions to manage these systems. This can be achieved by implementing an Application Infrastructure platform in your organization. by Minu Sirsalewala

Define 'application infrastructure' and how important is it to an enterprise?
A (common/standard) platform is required to make different applications in an enterprise work across geographies or multiple locations, and to manage a large number of users and transactions taking place within an enterprise. This platform which ensures that different applications work with each other, is known as an application infrastructure.

The application infrastructure makes enterprises more productive. An application infrastructure is a package that enables enterprise developers to build integrated multi-tier applications easily and rapidly. The application infrastructure is a platform, which integrates diverse computers, networks using multiple operating systems and software packages.

And BEA offers enterprises a unified, simplified and extensible platform for all their application needs.

Do enterprises in India really follow a structured application infrastructure?
Yes, most Indian customers are very knowledgeable on the latest developments in IT on a global basis. They are also very clear on the need for open standards.

In this context, the need for a structured application infrastructure is definitely appreciated by the Indian enterprises.

What are the emerging trends in application infrastructure?
The three main market trends are: emergence of platform; emergence of Web services and simplification of the integration problems.

We think that there are some features common to every enterprise, like transactions, a personal identity, and data sharing. BEA is focusing on creating a platform that will capture all these commonalties into one system, which kind of hinges on what we are defining as application infrastructure. So there will be a common horizontal technology available to everybody. That is one major trend we are seeing—emergence of the platforms—and the two major platforms vying for supremacy in this arena are J2EE & .Net.

However, the way I see it, they are working from opposite ends of the spectrum—Microsoft from the consumer side with lots of tools, and J2EE from the enterprise level. So, different people will capitalize in different areas as per their business needs. However, one of our major beliefs is that most large enterprises are going to be dealing with both. So one very important role BEA would like to play here is to provide J2EE infrastructure in a world where both platforms exists. We are specifically trying to build Microsoft integration with J2EE.

Another major trend is the emergence of Web services. The Web is very real; it just depends on how involved the company is. In Asia we have many Web service projects taking place.

The third major trend, which will have an impact on the manufacturing sector is the idea of integration, like EII (Enterprise Information Integration). This area has been dominated by many small players and regional companies who have been building very proprietary frameworks to solve the EII problem. Now with the emergence of platforms—which essentially pre-integrate themselves—you have Web services, which are allowing everybody to talk to everybody. In an IT world where one wants more productivity, less cost, and less servers to manage, if the platforms begin to include integration capabilities, the integration market will experience some flux. And platforms for Web services will form the basis for common integration projects. It hopefully will reduce the cost and make integration easier. And these are essentially large, blue chip, mission-critical applications.

How convenient is it for an enterprise to use integrated modules. Is there any product compatibility issue with the integrated infrastructure?
It is highly convenient for an enterprise to use integrated modules. BEA strongly believes in an Integrated Enterprise and Core IT Convergence. Core Convergence is more than packaging various products into one brand or one box. It is about building around a common architecture and leveraging a common foundation. By having convergence at the core, customers will benefit from deploying solutions that enhance and extend their existing environments via a single, integrated structure. Other vendors attempt to define Core Convergence as a mere packaging of a few hundred products in a box. With this approach, the underlying products are not built around a common architecture and customers may run into product incompatibility issues.

How is the integrated module managed and how efficient are the tools to manage the application infrastructure?
BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform includes operations, administration and management framework—tools that help lower the cost of operating applications. It includes tools for maintaining application components, connectivity, and user profiles.

Importantly, this enterprise software platform is composed of components that have been developed, united, tested and released together to ensure seamless interoperability, and which share a single install, upgrade, and support model to reduce management complexity. IT organizations can focus on creating business value upon their application infrastructure, rather than supporting it.

It enables the enterprise to improve profitability through an open, unified architecture, maintains competitive advantage by adapting to change with increased agility and an extensible architecture, and improves productivity with better use of development resources.

Are these solutions offered at all levels of enterprise applications, how well does it integrate with legacy systems?
Every industry has its particular blend of unique requirements, business pressures, and competitive challenges. BEA understands these distinctions, leveraging years of experience and success to help companies in targeted industries that require specific business solutions to meet their business goals.

BEA has customers running various types of applications on its WebLogic Enterprise Platform, ranging from mission-critical core business applications, to e-Commerce solutions, to B-B, B-C, and B-E portals. BEA has been committed to providing industry solutions for financial services, government agencies, manufacturing and telecommunications.

Can we talk about J2EE and .NET as part of an application infrastructure? What are the emerging trends in this area?
BEA recognized that there is a need for an integrated development framework that makes it incredibly simple for application developers, not just J2EE experts, to build enterprise-class Web services on the J2EE Platform. BEA's WebLogic Workshop enables application developers, experts in the business requirements, to build Web services using a visual development environment supported by a run-time framework that insulates developers from the complexities of J2EE.

Understanding the challenge and importance in providing customers with simple, unified and extensible solutions, BEA recently launched two products that address simplicity & usability:

  • WebLogic Workshop 7.0 (WLW 7.0), a product that changes the traditional way of code writing and application development. This product offers users graphical tools for deployment, graphical administration tools, graphical security tools and many utilities to help simplify the J2EE development and deployment process.
  • WebLogic Platform 7.0, an integrated product suite that integrates the application server with integration, portal and development frameworks into an open unified architecture. Within a single install, the infrastructure platform containing WebLogic Server 7.0 (apps server), WebLogic Integration 7.0, WebLogic Portal 7.0 & WebLogic Workshop 7.0 is ready to be deployed.

Minu Sirsalewala can be reached at

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