BEA sings praises of virtualised SOA

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BEA sings praises of virtualised SOA

Java and virtualisation a 'match made in heaven'.

BEA Systems has announced that it will start shipping its WebLogic Server Virtual Edition software at the beginning of June. 

Guy Churchward, BEA's vice president of WebLogic products, said at a meeting with reporters that the release will be followed by WebLogic Liquid Operations Control in the third quarter of this year.

The visions behind virtualisation and service oriented architectures (SOAs) are a match made in heaven, argued Churchward. But he warned that the two technologies currently lack proper integration, leading to poor server utilisation.

"Our customers were saying that they need to get better server utilisation. They literally said to us: 'You are the Java experts. Figure out how to make Java play better in virtualisation, because it sucks,'" he said.

Virtualisation offers a way to run multiple operating systems on a single physical server, allowing for increased server utilisation.

SOAs are designed to build and maintain applications in an enterprise. Rather than designing each application from the ground up, SOA allows developers to reuse code between departments and combine resources from all over the company. Each service offers a single functionality such as log-in or currency conversion. Services are then combines to create the actual application.

But because services inside an SOA will be used across multiple departments, the demand for a service will be much harder to predict. And a slowdown in a single service will affect performance across all applications that use that service.

Currently, applications typically run on a dedicated server. But once an application is divided into several services, each of them can run on a dedicated server.

Virtualisation can benefit SOAs because it allows a company to quickly add resources to a service that is suffering from peak demand, thereby guaranteeing performance.

"If you are virtualising an application, you are almost blinkered to the application's needs," said Churchward.

"But if you are in a SOA environment, where you have multiple parts that make up an application, you have to look at each piece and see what the ripple effect is."

A combination of SOA and virtualisation therefore will allow companies to add and remove additional servers practically on the fly.

The first version of WebLogic Server Virtual Edition runs as a virtual system on top of VMware's virtualisation platform. It offers a lightweight custom-built operating system tailored towards running a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). 

The 5MB bundle specialises in executing services. Because this Liquid Virtual Machine is tailored exclusively towards running Java applications, it requires 20 to 30 percent fewer resources than a general purpose operating system such as Linux.

A second release aims to further increase the power gains to 50 percent, allowing for a doubling of the number of services that run on a single physical server.

WebLogic Liquid Operations Control will control the provisioning of new virtual systems inside VMware and install the Liquid Virtual Machine.

BEA plans to release a Xen preview version of the WebLogic Server Virtual Edition by the end of this year, and a preview for Microsoft's Viridian virtualisation is slated for release by early 2008.  

The software is also capable of running directly on "bare metal", executing directly on server hardware without a third-party operating system or virtualisation software.

Although such a system would perform faster than a system running a mainstream operating system, it would require BEA to develop hardware-specific device drivers.

The key to improving Java's performance in virtualised environments, argued Churchward, lies in the ability to orchestrate the flow of data and resources across all layers of a SOA deployment.

It is therefore important that the company controls both the JVM and the operating system.

BEA first announced its plans for Java application virtualisation last December at the BEA World conference in Beijing.
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