Hmm, what’s ths?!?! BEA has introduced a new line of stuff, under the name Aqualogic Interface, or ALI (I think). As part of that, there is the Aqualogic User Interface (ALUI?). One of the things under that umbrella is the .NET Application Accelerator, whereby BEA is offering technical magic to enable .NET Developers to write code that runs on or adds value to an Aqualogic server. Intriguing!
The Java Portal Spec describes the model and APIs for Java developers to write portlets – fragments of Web UI that could be composed together to build a single, aggregated portal page. The goal was to enable developers to produce something like my.yahoo.com or one of any number of other web portals, but developers would be able to build these things inside enterprises, and the portlets (or fragments) could theoretically connect to any other system in the enterprise – mainframe transaction systems, databases, packaged apps, custom operational apps, and so on. The portal idea was a good one, lots of companies and vendors latched on to it, including Microsoft, with its Sharepoint products, which were at one point the fastest growing products at Microsoft.
The portal spec was good for Java vendors like BEA and IBM, because it extended the idea of the “application server” to include personalization features, membership, and so on – all extensions beyond the rapidly commoditizing J2EE specification on which their application server businesses were based. Java portal servers were like Java app servers++. And so BEA and IBM charged LOTS of money for these things. [ actually, until just now, I did not know, precisely how much money these other vendors were charging for portal servers, but I thought that it was “lots of money.” Now that I looked, it knocked my socks off! IBM is charging $980 per value unit for WebSphere Portal Server. Just what is a value unit, you say? A value unit is 1/100th of a CPU, if you are running a dual-core Xeon or Opteron on your server, as near as I can tell. If you go to quad-core or some other processor, then you’ll probably have to call IBM to find out how many “value units” you need to buy for your server. So for an x86 server, you will pay, I think, $98,000 per CPU to run WebSphere Portal Server. Zowie! I promise that Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server is not that expensive. ]
The model of selling pricey server licenses continues today, for both BEA and IBM, But, apparently BEA is noticing there are a whole lot of .NET developers in the enterprise today, and if they want to continue to sell high-priced servers, they better somehow allow enterprises to take advantage of all the .NET talent.
Hence, the .NET Application Accelerator.
Where does the interop come in? Well, if I have understood the product literature correctly, this widgetry allows .NET developers to build stuff that shows up as portlets in a BEA Portal server, using the WSRP standard or RSS. Hence, on-the-glass interop, via the portal server.
This looks like more of a good thing. In general, more options and choices for interop is good for customers, I think. I will be interested to hear any feedback on this interop-focused product, based on hands-on experience.