DEVWORKS: Integration is watchword at IBM show

Integration is the watchword at IBM's developer conference here this week, where the company is pushing new software that it says can help companies link business applications in ways that make them more efficient.

Steve Mills, general manager of IBM's software group, told developers in his opening speech Wednesday that businesses spend as much as 40 percent of their annual IT budgets on IT integration, including money spent on products and developer salaries. IBM can help reduce those costs with a slew of new products that will be rolled out this week and in the coming year, he said.

The overall message was that developers are required to link all kinds of applications from multiple vendors and running on multiple platforms. Big Blue is refreshing its family of WebSphere products to help developers achieve that, and is also improving its Tivoli management software and Lotus workgroup products to allow for tighter integration.

"The pieces have to come together and dovetail to deliver the complete computing model, because it's about more than automating transactions, it's about horizontal business process integration," Mills said.

New products announced Wednesday include a new release of IBM's flagship WebSphere Application Server, version 5.0, which will be available in the third quarter and adds new functions in areas like transaction management, security and Web services development, IBM said. New support for Business Rule Beans let business analysts update business rules without needing to alter applications, according to IBM.

Version 5.0 also adds support for JMX (Java Management Extensions), which should help boost performance of busy Web sites, according to IBM. JMX provides a standard way of managing a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) environments, using IBM's Tivoli products of software from third-party vendors, the company said.

Mills described WebSphere as the cornerstone of IBM's middleware strategy, which is built around open standards like XML, WSDL (Web Services Definition Language) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), he said. WebSphere competes with J2EE server products from BEA Systems Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Oracle Corp. and others.

Big Blue also announced WebSphere Business Integration version 4.1, a new tool that should help to simplify IBM's lineup of integration products, which some analysts have called confusing. The product combines the functions of three separate products -- CrossWorlds Interchange Server, WebSphere MQ Integrator Broker and MQ Workflow -- and will be sold at the same price as the Interchange Server, starting at $150,000, IBM said.

The product can be installed on AIX, Windows NT/2000 and Sun Solaris and will be available this quarter. Starting in the third quarter, IBM also will release new WebSphere products designed to address business process integration in specific industries starting with retail distribution, telecommunications, automotive, electronics and insurance, according to a statement.

Also new are two entry-level products for small and medium-size businesses: WebSphere MQ Event Broker and WebSphere MQ Integrator Broker.

The event broker is aimed at "people using MQ Series products who would like to take advantage of the broker technology but couldn't see a cost-effective way to do that," said John Swainson, general manager of IBM's application and integration middleware division. "It builds on MQ series, it allows you to do a full upgrade to a broker technology but in a cost effective way."

MQ Event Broker will be available this month starting at US$20,000, while Integrator Broker is scheduled to launch in June starting at $35,000 per processor.

The DeveloperWorks Live conference, which runs through Friday, rolls together three conferences that in past years were held separately: Solutions, WebSphere and Lotus DevCon. More than 4,000 registered for the event, although that's less than the combined number who attended the three events last year, Bob Timpson, general manager of IBM's developer relations group, said in an interview last week.

IBM blamed economic cutbacks, but said combining the shows also reflects tighter integration between its various product families. HP also blamed the economic downturn for its decision last week to cancel its worldwide developer conference, due to take place later this month in Las Vegas.

Other new products announced at developerWorks Wednesday include:

-- WebSphere Data Interchange, designed to make it easier for companies to exchange EDI (electronic data interchange) messages over the Internet, as opposed to using more costly, private leased lines. It is available now starting at $64,000.

-- WebSphere MQ 5.3, an upgrade to its WebSphere MQ messaging product (formerly called WebSphere MQ Series). According to IBM, the upgrade boosts transaction performance and supports additional secure connections, which it said becomes important as businesses start to connect with more systems and users outside of their own companies. The product is due in June starting at $2,000 per capacity unit.

-- WebSphere MQ Everyplace, another messaging product that has been extended beyond office settings to support delivery of data to handheld devices. A preview release is due to be available later this year, IBM said.

-- New WebSphere development tools, including Version 2 of Studio Asset Analyzer, which is due out later this quarter, and WebSphere Studio Enterprise developer, an integrated development environment (IDE) based on Eclipse that is intended to simplify the process of developing J2EE applications. Customers using VisualAge Enterprise Suits will be able to upgrade to the newer product later this year, IBM said.

-- IBM said its Content Manager 7 product has been validated for use on Siebel 7, the latest version of Siebel Systems Inc.'s suite of business applications.

More information about DeveloperWorks is on the Web at http://www-3.ibm.com/events/ibmdeveloperworkslive/index.html

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