Oracle today announced the availability of WebLogic Server 12c. This enterprise Java application server used to be the flagship of BEA Systems, but since WebLogic’s acquisition by Oracle in 2008, the app server has become the centerpiece of Oracle’s Middleware plays. This new version is focused on cloud-like deployments, and includes new tools for automating and managing multiple instances of WebLogic.

Mike Lehmann, senior director for product management at Oracle, said that WebLogic Server is an important pillar of Oracle’s entire cloud strategy. “We’re building a standards-based portable cloud infrastructure that works in your data center, is optimized for our engineered systems like Exalogic, and is the underlying infrastructure behind the Oracle Public Cloud we launched at Oracle OpenWorld [in October],” he said.

Chief among the more than 200 updates and new features in this version of WebLogic Server, said Lehmann, is the new Oracle Traffic Director. “This is a Layer 7 software load balancer, generally used in a local traffic-management pattern in cloud architecture. Finally, in addition to having the Java server in-memory data grid and things like Java messaging, we also offer traffic management,” he said.

The new traffic director allows developers and administrators to balance the flow of internal packets from the database, the message queue, or anywhere else in the stack, and ensure that those packets are evenly distributed across a WebLogic Server cluster.

The Oracle Traffic Director is also tied into Intel’s chipsets so that the system can offload cryptography duties to the CPU, thus speeding up the entire load-balancing process, said Lehmann.

Another big addition in WebLogic Server 12c is the addition of a new Virtual Assembly Builder for rapid system provisioning and configuration. “People look for virtualization support,” said Lehmann. “Part of the cloud application foundation integrated with WebLogic is Oracle Virtual Assembly Builder, which can take a multi-tier WebLogic application and transform it into a collection of virtual machines, which we call an Assembly.”

This gives developers and administrators more coarse-grain control over virtual machines, which Lehmann said is a good supplement to other provisioning and configuration management systems like Chef and Puppet, which offer fine-grain controls.

WebLogic Server 12c also adds numerous performance enhancements. Lehmann said this new version breaks a number of records in the SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark test.

For developers, perhaps the most obvious change comes in the form of a newer, lighter-weight version of WebLogic. This developer edition of the application server can be downloaded from the Oracle Technology Network, and weighs in at just 168MB, zipped. That’s positively a crash diet for this massive enterprise system, and the regular distributions of WebLogic remain significantly larger.

Regarding the download size, “168MB is dramatically smaller than the production data-center deployment solutions we provide,” said Lehmann. The goal, he said, is to make it easier for developers to get started on their desktops by offering this smaller, simpler download.