BEA, IBM Propose Java/BEPL 'Marriage'

Vendors say merging BPEL and Java will improve business process applications.

IBM and BEA Systems have proposed a marriage of the Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL) with Java , a merger that would allow the two languages to build more complete business process software together.

BPELJ is the cousin of the BPEL, a language created by Microsoft, IBM and BEA in order to specify business processes that involve Web services.

BPELJ was written to fill certain holes in the original language, according to BEA and IBM.

While Web services allow applications to talk to one another across different computing platforms, BPEL is the method industry analysts say will help vendors monetize the services. That's because BPEL, should it come to fruition via e-business standards body OASIS, applies rules to Web services for functions such as software integration and business process management.

But BPELJ is IBM and BEA's twist on the idea of using Web services to commit to business practices, a standard the companies believe makes up for some inefficiencies in BPEL. The issue helps explain why IBM and BEA, who are fierce rivals in the application server space, are on the same side about BPELJ.

"Although BPEL is clearly poised to become the dominant standard for orchestration of Web services, it does not address a number of significant issues faced today by organizations with heterogeneous IT environments," the vendors said.

BEA and IBM said BPEL only describes interactions between Web services, which they contend introduces too much heavy abstraction, overhead and complexity to transactions.

Conversely, they added, BPELJ is geared to help applications communicate with local resources, such as files, queues, or Enterprise Java Beans , because lighter weight interfaces such as Java APIs often provide a more direct approach, the companies said. Their proposal, centered around providing more flexibility in Web services-based business processes, is to wrap them together.

"This white paper proposes a combination of BPEL with Java, named BPELJ, that allows these two programming languages to be used together to build complete business process applications," the companies said. By enabling BPEL and Java to work together, BPELJ allows each language to do what it does best."

The companies have posted a white paper about BPELJ.

While BEA and IBM have been content to work with Microsoft on BPEL, WS-Security and several other standards, the companies also recognize fundamental differences. Microsoft cooks its own development languages and applications under the aegis of .NET, while IBM and BEA stick with writing applications with Java. This is why you won't see Microsoft touch BPELJ.

IBM and BEA have submitted the BPELJ spec to the Java Server Request 207 working group for consideration. Written by BEA engineers, JSR 207 is designed to standardize the relationship between process languages like BPEL and the Java language and J2EE platform.

Analysts like BPEL. Do Vendors?

Forrester Research analyst Mike Gilpin told internetnews.com BPEL (and possibly BPELJ, if it gets enough support from other vendors) will be very important in helping vendors build standards-based stacks to supplant more proprietary enterprise application integration and BPM products. He noted that even the vendors of those current BPM solutions are moving toward BPEL.

"This is all part of the trend toward provision of infrastructure services for integration by broad platform solutions that also support development, deployment, transactional runtime containers (application servers), management, security, etc.," Gilpin said. "The value proposition of getting all these elements from one vendor, or at least a smaller number of vendors, is strong, although it depends upon not only the support for standards, but also the depth of integration between the platform components, and the ease of use and productivity of the tools for development and integration."

Forrester analyst Uttam Narsu, however, is more cautious about BPEL.

"While support from vendors is emerging, I haven't seen as much demand coming from the enterprises -- yet," Narsu told internetnews.com. "In part, it's because the standard has yet to emerge from OASIS, and in part, because there wasn't a standard language binding, a deficiency that BPELJ repairs."

However, he did say monetary investments by vendors seeking to get a leg up on each other would not surprise him while BPEL is being parsed in OASIS.

"I see BPEL gaining more importance than transactions in the short term, especially as initiatives like Siebel's UAN and SAP's NetWeaver (both of which depend on BPEL) attract the business audience," Narsu said.

IBM for one, is extremely excited about the potential of BPEL. In a recent interview, Bob Sutor, director of marketing, WebSphere Foundation Software at IBM, said the public can expect to see BPEL-supported products, services and educational training from Big Blue this spring.

Meanwhile, BEA said it will provide full support for BPELJ in the next major release of WebLogic Integration middleware.






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