IBM in web development push

IBM has bolstered what it calls its most important internet-based development platform by introducing several new core and complementary products to its Websphere Application Server line and promising to pump $US1 billion into promoting sales of its application servers.

At a press conference at PC Expo here, IBM officials said they have already invested more than $US1 billion in development and sales of web application servers over the course of 1998 and 1999, and will invest an additional $US1 billion in 2000. The company will grow its 2000 investment by "double digits" in 2001.

Some of that money is earmarked for hiring some 1000 engineers and sales people to develop and sell Websphere products. The money will also be used to launch marketing programs targeted at about 5 million potential developers so they can build and deploy e-business applications that will reside on top of Websphere.

The move is seen by IBM officials as a way to pre-empt competitive efforts, most notably those of Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and Oracle.

"We think Websphere is the first true e-business platform that can offer developers an integrated set of technologies that address every phase of e-business," said John Swainson, general manager of Application and Integration Middleware at IBM, in New York.

In a recent report, Giga Information Group said the overall market opportunity in the business-to-business e-marketplace was $US585 million in 1999 and expects it to be $US1.6 billion this year and $US9 billion by 2003. Giga said it expects IBM to own about 24 per cent of that market by the end of this year.

Company officials yesterday outlined what IBM calls its new Websphere Software Platform. The platform consists of three layers that include the Websphere Foundation, Foundation Extensions, and Application Accelerators.

"This is like a three-layer cake with the bottom layer being the Websphere and MQSeries software, then a set of foundation extensions that address application development and presentation. The top layer is the accelerators designed to take advantage of other elements of the platform and add specific functions targeted at the hotter application developers and integrators that want to go after as business-to-business integration and process automation," said Paraic Sweeney, marketing vice president for the Websphere Server Series.

The Websphere Foundation is centred around the company's Websphere Application Servers, which include the Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise Editions, coupled with IBM's MQSeries messaging software. It is this layer that supplies the ability to do basic e-business functions such as transactions and extending back-end business data and applications to the web.

The new version has enhancements that make it easier to deploy, integrate, and manage Java-based applications as well as JavaBean components that can be used across an enterprise.

Version 3.5 also includes improved security, clustering, and availability, according to company officials.

The second layer, the Websphere Foundation Extensions, includes integrated services and tools that developers can use to better adapt business processes and create e-business solutions. Foundation Extensions provide a way to speed application development as well as improve the presentation of data, according to company officials.

New offerings unveiled yesterday for this second layer include software that helps developers and users create more personalised web experiences by better identifying individual user needs for information and applications, as well as customise and deliver content to users with a variety of devices including PCs, handheld devices and smart phones.

The new packages include WebSphere Personalization and WebSphere Portal Server, which will be integrated with IBM's WebSphere Transcoding Publisher, the IBM Enterprise Information Portal and WebSphere Everyplace Suite.

IBM also announced several new development and deployment services designed to make it easier for developers to create e-business applications that work with Websphere.

Chief among these products is the Websphere Edge Server Version 1.0, which can be used to create higher performing websites. The new server offers caching, load balancing, and content-based routing that can result in better scalability and performance, according to IBM officials.

Another product is the WebSphere Site Analyzer 3.5, which offers website traffic measurement and reporting functions that provide users with data they need in order to improve web content and a website's overall user experience.

IBM also unwrapped WebSphere Studio Version 3.5, which now better enables developers to create and manage applications for browsers and devices.

The company also refreshed its VisualAge for Java series debuting Version 3.5, which features a new servlet wizard that helps generate servlets, Java server pages and HTML prototypes that allows developers to more quickly test their business logic in side their development environment before deploying applications.

The third layer, called Application Accelerators, was described by IBM officials as modular and extensible business services that allow companies to better anticipate and then react to a variety of business opportunities.

The Accelerators allow customers to take advantage of new technologies emerging in the areas of collaboration, e-commerce and B2B integration. One such offering is the WebSphere B2B Integrator.

Users wanting more information about IBM's WebSphere Software platform can contact http://www.ibm.com/websphere.

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