BEA Systems has decided to treat dual-core processors as a single unit for pricing purposes, following an industry trend.

The company had been charging an additional 25 percent for second cores, but will drop the fee for the second core, said Bill Roth, BEA vice president of marketing. "Basically, what we're doing is charging by socket," Roth said. The plan applies to all of BEA's products, not just its bread-and-butter WebLogic Server application server.

Although the pricing policy covers all CPUs, BEA has Intel in focus with the plan. Intel's Pentium Extreme Edition is a dual-core processor, as are some Pentium D series chips. The chipmaker also plans dual-core Xeon and Itanium 2 chips. BEA's announcement is being made to coincide with the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week.

With the pricing change, BEA is taking on Oracle, which has a pricing plan that bills each processor core on a multi-processor CPU as 75 percent of a processor. "It's clear to us that we need to take dual-core CPUs and treat them as a single computational unit in order to be competitive [with Oracle]," Roth said.

Under BEA's plan, a single-CPU implementation of the clustered edition of WebLogic Express, for example, would cost $4,000 per CPU for a dual-core system, as opposed to $5,000 under the previous pricing structure.

BEA faces a competitive challenge from the open source JBoss application server. JBoss doesn't charge for licensing but generates revenue by selling professional services for the application server.

BEA's Roth, though, is undaunted. "Comparing JBoss's pricing versus industry-standard CPU pricing is a bit like comparing apples to grenades," Roth said. "They're both small and green but one of them might explode."

"I think long-term," he added. "The TCO [for JBoss] isn't as attractive as people think, but I don't have the numbers readily at hand,".