BEA Systems is to expand its planned software development centre in China as part of its drive to simplify and standardise creation of Web services. 'Now that we have a very standardised platform, we don't have to build the technologies to support it only in the United States,' said Alfred Chuang, president and chief executive at Silicon Valley-based BEA. Within two years, BEA hopes to employ 200 key developers at the mainland software lab - its first outside the US. The move follows the setting up several months ago of a directly owned subsidiary, BEA Systems (China), in Beijing, with more than 100 staff. Financial details of the firm's mainland investments were not disclosed. Mr Chuang said the wholly owned Chinese subsidiary allowed the company to sell its software directly to customers instead of relying on distributors in Hong Kong and the mainland. Offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou will serve as hubs from which it will sell software and provide services in every province. This expansion strategy was boosted yesterday as BEA, the global market leader in application server software, unveiled new products and corporate initiatives that extended its foothold in the burgeoning application infrastructure software market. At its annual developers conference that concludes tomorrow, BEA introduced its WebLogic Enterprise Platform, which includes the company's application development and deployment products, its enterprise portal framework, its integration server and Web services capabilities. Mr Chuang said BEA was ahead of other software vendors in offering those technologies in one, tightly integrated package. Until now, large corporations have had to rely on a wide range of technologies to develop, deploy, manage, integrate and secure business applications, making the software infrastructure underlying enterprise applications difficult to mesh together. Mr Chuang said the new BEA products were part of a strategy to offer a software platform for building and running enterprise applications and Web Services, which opened up Java-based applications creation to nine million more developers worldwide. He said: 'Our platform is truly standardised. It is based on open, non-proprietary industry standards that address the reality of [diverse] hardware platforms in most major corporations, and thus it runs on a wide range of Unix, Linux, Intel and mainframe architectures.' Mr Chuang said fragmented set-up resulted in the complexity and expense which organisations faced when working with legacy applications. Director of systems infrastructure and software research at International Data Corp Rob Hailstone, said: 'The growth in the application server market has led to strong competition and rapid product maturity. 'Now, to retain its position as market-share leader, BEA has to provide a more complete application environment.' With its WebLogic Enterprise Platform, BEA is expected to be at the forefront of the worldwide application infrastructure software market, which is forecast to grow 23 per cent a year to reach US$57 billion by 2005. At the core of this new product is BEA's WebLogic Workshop development tool, formerly code-named Cajun. WebLogic Workshop provides the first integrated development framework with visual interfaces to the latest Java programming technology, Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). This technology enables application developers - whether they are trained in Cobol, Visual Basic or any other procedural-based programming language - to build enterprise-class applications on the BEA platform without having to learn object-oriented programming or J2EE application programming interfaces. Tod Nielsen, BEA chief marketing officer, said: 'Until now, J2EE has required the skills of highly specialised developers. By hiding the complexities of J2EE through simple controls, application developers can become immediately productive building enterprise-class Web service applications that increase operational efficiency, integrate with partners, and suppliers, and accelerate time-to-market for enterprise applications.'