Middleware vendor BEA Systems will lay out its Java virtualization strategy later this week in China, an approach the vendor hopes will differentiate it from its competitors.At its BEAWorld user conference in Beijing from Wednesday to Thursday, the company will announce a product road map for software due out in 2007 and aimed at optimizing how enterprise Java applications run in virtualized environments.The move has been driven by customer demand, according to Guy Churchward, vice president of WebLogic products at BEA. Users are looking for ways to improve on the more general-purpose server virtualization capabilities already provided by vendors such as EMC, XenSource and Microsoft. "Customers were running into challenges around efficiency, optimization and performance," he said.Come the first quarter of next year, BEA plans to release WebLogic Server Virtual Edition (WLS-VE), a version of its Java application server that includes the vendor\u2019s new Liquid VM technology.Liquid VM is a BEA-specific Java Virtual Machine that enables Java applications to run directly on a hypervisor without requiring an operating system to be present. Initially, Liquid VM will work only with VMware\u2019s ESX Server hypervisor, but BEA plans to support other hypervisors in future including those from XenSource and Microsoft, Churchward said.Being able to run Java applications virtually without recourse to an operating system will enable users to substantially reduce the amount of computer power, enabling them to lower the hardware costs per application.Drawing a comparison between VMware\u2019s current approach towards application virtualization and BEA\u2019s new take, Churchward gave an analogy about moving house.VMware\u2019s like a removal firm that comes in and packages up the entire contents of a person\u2019s house and transports it using massive trucks. "Once you open the boxes at your new place, you discover you don\u2019t need 60 percent of it," he said. BEA\u2019s approach resembles an individual taking the time to go through all their possessions prior to moving and throwing away what they don\u2019t need, therefore requiring smaller vans to transport their belongings."BEA\u2019s approach directly targets Java infrastructure flexibility, which has not always been the platform\u2019s core strength," James Governor, analyst with RedMonk, wrote in an e-mail interview. He believes the vendor is the first among the major middleware vendors to go down this path, but points to smaller companies Cassatt and DataSynapse, which are already pursuing what he terms "a virtualize\/automate\/WebLogic strategy."Due out in the summer of 2007 is Liquid Operations Control (LOC), BEA software to manage and control Java applications running on virtualized infrastructure. While users can combine LOC and Liquid VM to improve their WebLogic virtualization capabilities, BEA intends to widen LOC\u2019s scope so it can be applied to all enterprise Java applications, Churchward said, including support for the Apache Software Foundation\u2019s Tomcat technology.Moving to manage other Java application servers is a course BEA has already begun to pursue, Governor wrote. "It\u2019s the right strategy, which BEA could dramatically accelerate by purchasing Covalent," he added. Open-source company Covalent Technologies provides products and services for Tomcat and other Apache software including the Axis Web service framework and Geronimo application server.-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)Related Link:\n\nBEA Unveils Latest SOA Integration ToolsCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.