IBM plans to embrace Web-based computing services

As expected, IBM today announced an e-business initiative aimed at making it easier for corporate users to integrate different applications via a Web computing services architecture based on various technology standards.

Sources last week said the new plan would include all four of IBM's major software technologies below the operating system level. At a briefing in New York today, Steve Mills, the senior vice president in charge of IBM's software group, confirmed that and said the company hopes to reduce the friction that can result when users try to tie together multiple systems and applications.

IBM introduced a series of new products as part of the announcement, including an upgrade of its WebSphere application server that's due for release late next month. Other tools supporting Web-based services are due to be added to the company's DB2 database, Tivoli Systems systems management and Lotus Development groupware and collaboration product lines.

The move by IBM follows last year's announcement of Microsoft's .Net technology initiative and similar programs that have since been detailed by Oracle and Sun Microsystems. All of the rival vendors said they're trying to make it easier to turn applications into computing services that can be accessed via the Web.

"It sounds like IBM is building components that link applications together dynamically," said Sam Albert, president of consultancy Sam Albert Associates. "This is an appreciation by IBM of how [interoperable] e-business software portfolios need to be."

Mills said IBM is committed to incorporating emerging standards such as XML, the Simple Object Access Protocol and the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration directory into its architecture. "We want to see the entire IT industry adopt and integrate these standards," he said. "They're necessary to do real business-to-business business."

The products unveiled today by IBM include new WebSphere Studio tools for developing Internet-based services and WebSphere Business Integrator, which will provide integration, transaction and workflow services among different internal applications and among systems running at multiple companies.

The company also announced a series of new tools that are supposed to add Web services capabilities to the Tivoli and Lotus product lines. In addition, a DB2 Version 7.2 upgrade that was introduced last week includes a DB2 XML Extender that will let Web services applications access information stored in multiple databases.

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