BEA’s WebLogic : Quick on the Draw

BEA has been heartily toasting itself after reaching the billion-dollar-sales mark for its most recent fiscal year. But to customers, the nine-year-old company remains a scrappy independent that must work harder and smarter to beat its larger competitors.

“I think BEA’s challenge is being able to compete with others who have more arrows in their quiver,” says Tim J. Theriault, president of worldwide operations and technology for Northern Trust, a Chicago-based investment-management firm. “BEA has a great offering, but large enterprises have relationships with IBM and Oracle and are going to consider them.”

That’s what Northern Trust did itself. In 1998, Theriault and his team requested proof-of-concept demonstrations from BEA and IBM. The result? “BEA had an app up and running with us in two weeks,” Theriault recalls. “The alternative with IBM was more of a consulting arrangement.”

Two years ago Brian Chau, director of e-business at Chicago-based logistics and shipping company USF, had a similar experience when the company was looking to move off its Microsoft-based Web infrastructure. “BEA won’t sell a professional service to you or lock you into a custom implementation, while IBM might.” After considering both vendors, USF selected BEA’s WebLogic. Another factor that played into the decision was Chau’s impression that “the BEA guys are closer to the [Java] standards.” Moreover, he says, of the programmers USF interviewed leading up to start of the project, “if they were senior in Java, most of them had a preference for BEA.”

But a few BEA customers bellyache about the cost of its software. The full suite of BEA’s application server, portal and development tools runs $90,000 per processor—more than four times Oracle’s pricing for a comparable bundle. “BEA is really pricey,” says James Raby, vice president of engineering at CBCA, a medical-claims processing company based in Fort Worth, Texas.

CBCA is undertaking a cost/benefits analysis of upgrading its BEA software, which it first installed in 2000, versus replacing it with Oracle’s application server. To some extent Raby feels he’s stuck with BEA, even though the products are supposed to conform to Java standards. “You start building up some code on it, and it becomes difficult to change,” he says.

BEA Systems
2315 N. First St.
San Jose, CA 95131
(408) 570-8000

Employees: 3,122

Alfred S. Chuang
Chairman, CEO
Founded the company with Bill Coleman and Ed Scott in 1995 (he’s the “A” in BEA); all three are former Sun Microsystems executives. Named CEO in 2001 after serving as chief technology officer, among other roles.

Olivier Helleboid
Executive VP, Products Organization
Before joining BEA in 2002, he was president and CEO of Rainfinity, which sells high-availability software for Internet applications.

The core WebLogic Server for Java applications, which BEA obtained when it bought startup WebLogic Inc. in 1998, provides built-in Web services, security and clustering capabilities. WebLogic Workshop allows developers to create Java applications optimized to run on the BEA server. JRockit Java Virtual Machine (JVM) software is designed to improve performance on Intel-based servers.

Reference Checks

Zions Bank
Dennis Page
Software Development Mgr.
[email protected]
Project: Regional bank based in Salt Lake City uses WebLogic to run its online banking and loan applications serving 175,000 customers.

Brian Chau
Dir., E-Business
[email protected]
Project: Logistics and freight company runs WebLogic on two Sun E450 servers connected to AS/400 systems, handling about 800,000 information requests daily.

Northern Trust
Tim J. Theriault
President, Operations and Technology
[email protected]
Project: Investment-management firm, which processes $350 billion per day in securities transactions, has used WebLogic for all its Web-based applications since 1998.

James Raby
VP, Engineering
[email protected]
Project: Medical-benefits processing company lets individuals check the status of their claims online with an application based on WebLogic Server and Portal that accesses data stored in an Oracle database.

Airnet Systems
Tim Brown
Systems Architect
[email protected]
Project: Air transportation company in Columbus, Ohio, uses WebLogic for an application that tracks information for 30,000 shipments per month.

Call Source
Kim Wallace
[email protected]
Project: Call-tracking and training firm replaced Macromedia’s JRun application server, which needed to be rebooted nearly once an hour, with WebLogic on Red Hat Linux.

Executives listed here are all users of BEA’s products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.