Versata Hopes for a SOA Spark with New Java IDE
March 8, 2005 Alex Woodie
In the midst of the resignation of its CEO and very disappointing financial results, Versata last week unveiled a new version of its Enterprise Java development and runtime environment. Versata 6 offers support for externally described business rules, compatibility with the Eclipse workbench, and built-in business activity monitoring, and represents a bet by Versata that service oriented architectures (SOA) and Web services will become more popular as a means to simplify application development.
Versata is an advanced Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) development and runtime environment designed to be used by business analysts. Instead of hiring expensive J2EE developers to build transaction systems, Versata says companies are better off investing in its Enterprise Java Bean (EJB) generator and accompanying server software that runs within popular Java application servers like JBoss, WebSphere, and WebLogic.
Development with Versata is three to five times faster than standard procedural programming, the company says, and its software works on the iSeries (via Linux or AIX) too. Versata claims it automates 98 percent of the work of developing EJBs, compared to writing them by hand.
Versata has caught the SOA bug that’s going around, one that it seemed predisposed to catch in the first place. The same advantages people are attributing to SOA development–focus on business logic, reuse of code, and empowerment of non-programmers as application developers–are things that Versata has been talking about for some time.
Versata has raised its SOA story up a notch by calling its eponymous development and runtime environment a Business Rules Engine, or BRE, with Versata 6. Compared to procedural RPG, COBOL, or Java programming, where business rules are hard-coded into an application, making modification difficult and expensive, business rules in Versata’s BRE are externally described and separate from the applications they govern, giving companies more control over modifications and extensions to their IT systems.
Versata 6 adds support for decision rules, which are rules that require a yes or no, or numeric answer, such as a credit score. It employs the high-performance Rete algorithm for decision rules. Other types of business rules managed by Versata 6 include process rules, transaction logic rules, and data rules.
Another new feature in the Versata 6 Workbench is support for the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF), allowing Versata users to use the EMF for metadata modeling. Support for EMF allows Versata 6 users to share design information and metadata with other Eclipse-based tools and corporate metadata, Versata says.
Versata introduced support for the iSeries last fall with version 5.6.2 (see “Versata Completes Port of Java Tool to iSeries”). While the Versata application server component requires an iSeries partition running Linux or AIX, the software can directly access DB2/400, as well as and DB2 UDB running in a Linux partition.
Very slow sales of software licenses adversely affected Versata’s first quarter results, which the publicly traded Oakland, California, company announced last Thursday. Total revenue for the quarter ending January 31 was $2.3 million, down about 32 percent from the $3.4 million it brought in for the same quarter a year ago.
The big hit came from a substantial decrease in software license revenue, which declined from $1.2 million a year ago to $156,000 last quarter. Just the same, the company managed to cut its quarterly net loss from $2.4 million a year ago to $1.9 million last quarter.
The disappointing results led to the resignation of former Versata CEO and president, Alan Baratz, in early February when Versata announced preliminary results. “There’s no way to sugarcoat our financial results for this past quarter; they are disappointing,” Baratz said. “But it’s important for our investors to know that our focus last quarter was on the product and operational investments necessary to continue our growth in the coming quarters.” Baratz remains on the company’s board of directors.
Will Frederick, Versata’s CFO, has taken the role of interim CEO and president as the company looks for a permanent replacement for Baratz. Frederick acknowledged the difficulty facing Versata, but remained stoic in the face of adversity. “We believe the plan we’ve established is very challenging, but still achievable. We remain committed to our vision and strategy of providing the industry’s most advanced platform for business-rules-driven application creation and management.”
Versata 6 is slated to ship later this month. For more information, visit www.versata.com.