IBM, iPlanet to unveil Web services software

IBM and iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions will both attempt to move their respective Web services strategies forward at Java One next week, unwrapping new products they believe offer developers a smoother way to create, deploy, and integrate them.

Working in concert, IBM's WebSphere Studio Integration Edition and WebSphere Application Server 4.1 Enterprise Edition allow developers to tie Java and non-Java applications together with existing Web services to create logical workflow. Users can make that workflow available on an applications server and expose it as a Web service.

"This allows you to 'choreograph' or pull information from multiple sources at one time and save it as a workflow. You can put it on a server and keep it separate from your applications logic, and [you can] make it available for reuse by other developers," said Scott Cosby, IBM's manager of WebSphere business process integration, based in San Francisco.

The latest version of WebSphere Studio features a new graphical interface that allows developers to link applications and Web services together by just dragging and dropping them, which IBM officials believe will result in greater programmer productivity.

For instance, using some of the new Web services built into the application server and toolkit, users could visually build a new production management application to connect to an existing order management system that checks inventories and links a company to its suppliers, Cosby said.

Users can accomplish this by just defining and modifying the logical sequence between these steps to best suit their individual business requirements. Also, newly created applications can be turned into Web services that link to external business partners, he said.

While these latest improvements move IBM's Web services strategy forward, some analysts feel the company has more important work yet to do at the server level.

"I think these are nice, incremental improvements. But what they really need do is get their back-end integration story in order. They have more work to do to expose all of their back-end applications as Web services. That is where users will get real value," said Shawn Willett, an analyst with Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va.

IBM is also including the UDDI Registry with the latest version of WebSphere server free of charge. This will allow users to search for and collect resources from across multiple applications and divisions in order to create Web services that can be used both inside and outside their companies.

"We feel this is a significant inclusion because most of our customers are now beginning to explore Web services and to have more private Web services registries," Cosby said.

Version 4.1 of the WebSphere Application Server now has broader support for other platforms including AIX, Solaris, Windows 2000, Red Hat's version of Linux, and HP-UX. It also now supports the Informix database in addition to its existing support of DB2.

Available immediately, the application server costs US$35,000 per processor. More information about the product can be viewed at www.ibm.com/software/webservers/appserv/enterprise.html.

WebSphere Studio Application Developer 4.1 will be available on March 28 for $5,999. More information about the toolkit can be had by going to www.ibm.com/software/ad/studiointegration. iPlanet will also reveal an improved Web services integration strategy with its plans to eliminate silo architectures by enhancing its integration capabilities. The company will announce at JavaOne an upgrade to its Integration Server and iPlanet Portal Server, according to Sanjay Sarathy, director of developer enablement at iPlanet.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is equipping its integration server with WSDL (Web Services Description Language) import capability, which allows users to take advantage of Web services for integration purposes.

"The WSDL import helped us build the full integration features on a standard Web services basis," said Dave Hearn, director of business integration at iPlanet. iPlanet is also adding support for XAB (XML Adapter Designer) to the integration server, which enables integration at the XML level, Hearn said.

In addition, the company will announce that the Portal Server now has native JCA (Java Connector Architecture) capability. Sarathy said that JCA within the portal enables users to connect the portal directly to back-end systems and pull that information and business logic out to make it available via the portal.

"This allows us to provide the flexibility to go through an unmanaged process or go through the integration server for things like business process management," Sarathy said.

With these announcements and others recently made, some analysts believe the Java-based Web services war is about to escalate to the next level.

"Web services has been a key for the Java platform the last couple of years, but the first products were just downloads off Web sites that tended to show off all the plumbing. Now everyone is finding ways to hide the plumbing. Now it is a question of building Web services that are accessible to people who are not heavy-duty Java programmers," said Mike Gilpin, a vice president and research fellow with Giga Information Group Inc.

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