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IBM outs WebSphere 5.0

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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM will push Web services and simplified management and administration in the latest version of its delayed WebSphere application server, expected to launch today.

WebSphere 5.0 features SOAP parsing, UDDI repository, Java and a number of open source technologies that IBM claims speeds performance of Web services and lowers integration costs.

The application server also simplifies management through features IBM claimed are part of its nascent autonomic computing strategy for self-healing of systems. These features include ability to detect and correct faults and automated server clustering.

Stefan Van Overtveldt, product director for WebSphere technical marketing, said it is "extremely important" that customers can easily set-up and administer both Web services and the application server.

"That translates into lower cost of operation and the ability to change more quickly in the business environment," Van Overtveldt said.

Reduced cost combined with real Web services capabilities are important to IBM which is locked in a battle for first place in the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application server market with San Jose, California-based BEA Systems Inc. The vendors have both added features and APIs either directly to their application servers or around them, in a veritable arms race that is designed to ensure they win the largest market share.

Van Overtveldt said it is important IBM distinguishes itself by enhancing the base-level application server. "We are not anymore in a battle of application server versus application server. We are in a battle of middleware platforms," he said.

However, IBM has until now missed one basic trick in the application server game: certification for a full version of its product to the latest J2EE standard, finalized last year. WebSphere 5.0 is certified to the latest version, J2EE 1.3.

BEA turned this deficit into a valuable propaganda tool, as that company launched a J2EE 1.3-compliant version of its WebLogic application server in April. Van Overtveldt conceded to ComputerWire in August that IBM was challenged in a "marketing perspective".

IBM faces a potential challenge, too, from Oracle and Sun Microsystems Inc. Despite single digit market share Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle, though, did double its numbers for 9i Application Server (9iAS) in 2001 while Santa Clara, California-based Sun, is re-launching its ONE Application Server.

Part of Sun's strategy involves bundling entry-level versions with Solaris and Unix boxes. Sun launched the Sun ONE Platform and Standard Edition last month - when uncertainty lingered over WebSphere 5.0's shipment date. WebSphere 5.0 had been due for launch in September and IBM subsequently promised a launch in November.

While IBM has dismissed Oracle and Sun as insignificant the company does seek to maintain its edge over these competitors and BEA. As such, IBM has upgraded WebSphere's Web services challenge with a gateway that directs Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) traffic across Java Message Service (JMS) and MQ transports and inclusion of a private Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) repository. Re-worked versions of the Access SOAP Parser, to speed performance, and Web Services Invocation Framework are also included.

The company is also pitching support for Web services and full J2EE 1.3 as making the application server capable of speeding application integration work, and thus lowering development costs.

Administrators, meanwhile, get the benefit of WebSphere 5.0's self-healing features. WebSphere 5.0 can analyze transaction patterns to spot potential faults, which it can then fix. Self-configuration, meanwhile, allows the application server to make recommendations over levels of performance for groups of users or specific applications, and automatically search-out and cluster with other servers running WebSphere 5.0.

© ComputerWire

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