IBM pushes Web services, e-business in WebSphere 5.0

IBM Corp. on Monday announced Version 5.0 of its WebSphere Application Server, emphasising Web services, e-business, and mainframe deployments in the release.

WebSphere 5.0 plays into IBM's vision for e-business, which entails having applications and computer systems available on demand through use of middleware and Web services, said Stefan Van Overtveldt, director of technical marketing for WebSphere.

"WebSphere Application Server is really becoming our platform to support e-business on demand," Van Overtveldt said. Autonomic and grid computing also play into this plan.

Version 5.0 "actually brings us without doubt the most robust platform for Web services," Van Overtveldt said.

Web services features include the Axis 3.0 open-source SOAP parser for improving Web services requests by a factor of four to five, and support of Web Services Invocation Framework, an IBM technology that enables Web services to be deployed over networking protocols such as CORBA IIOP, MQSeries, and JMS. Web services over AOL Instant Messaging also is supported.

"I might be a customer looking to use a Web service and using IM to talk to a person to get information on a product. I simply push the button and use the communication channel that I already established and the applications talk to one another," Van Overtveldt said.

Also featured for Web services functionality is a private UDDI registry for setting up internal repositories of Web services.

To boost security, Version 5.0 features a Web services gateway that is deployed between firewalls to authenticate external requests.

Workflow also is enhanced for Web services; multiple Web services can be linked together for implementing a business process. For example, an application could be developed to enable credit card information lookups via Web services, and then a decision can be made on whether to approve credit.

Version 5.0 also is compliant with the J2EE 1.3 specification, enabling asynchronous messaging for communication between Enterprise Java Beans.

"The big advantage of doing this is you end up with parts of your application that are loosely coupled, so if you make a change to one part of your application, you don't necessarily have to change the other parts as well," Van Overtveldt said. "It allows you to make changes to your application more rapidly."

Analyst Mike Gilpin, research fellow at Giga Information Group, pointed out that other vendors already have supported in J2EE 1.3 in their application servers.

The new application server also is ostensibly compliant with the yet-to-be-released J2EE 1.4 specification, enabling better integration between Web services and J2EE environments. J2EE 1.4 will feature support of JAX RPC (Java APIs for XML Remote Procedure Calls), for better communication between J2EE and Unix applications.

An early user of the product, David Moskowitz, CIO and CTO at Productivity Solutions, an e-business architectural and development firm in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., said Version 5.0 "makes our job a lot easier."

He cited the integration between the WebSphere Studio toolset and the application server as a benefit. Web services support in Version 5.0 is critical, Moskowitz added.

"One of the things I've been talking about literally since 1996-97 is the notion of a service-oriented development, changing the perspective from object-oriented to service-oriented development," he said.

With the new application server IBM is promoting its legacy mainframes as a platform for running the software. The application server on the zSeries mainframe can repair itself without having to shut down. Mainframes are an answer for customers looking to deploy the application server with the highest scalability and availability, according to Overtveldt.

In addition, using Parallel Sysplex technology, multiple mainframes can be linked together as one system. Mainframes also offer a workload management mechanism for managing service-level agreements.

"We're leveraging specific capabilities of the zSeries mainframe," Overtveldt said.

In the area of autonomic computing, Version 5.0 features self-configuration of functions such as tuning the application server. "The server will look at what the application does and requires and automatically tune itself or get tuning guidelines to the administrator," Van Overtveldt said.

Also part of the autonomic functionality is a self-protecting feature in WebSphere that acts like a circuit breaker, preventing an application hot spot when sites are subject to intrusion. A self-healing feature in the server function allows the server to log events and analyze events for troubleshooting problems before they happen.

The application server fits into IBM's vision for grid computing in which IBM envisions users being able to go to the Internet and have parts of their application running on other systems in the grid.

"Grid computing is all about getting access to computing resources, more computing power, more storage, etc., on demand, Van Overtveldt said.

Initially slated to ship in the third quarter of this year, IBM opted to delay the release of Version 5.0 until it could first release a new version of the WebSphere Studio development toolset, also labeled Version 5.0, according to IBM. WebSphere Studio 5.0 shipped in September.

"Customers basically told us our original plan of having the application server become available before the development tools that come with it did not make sense," Overfeldt said.

Other functions of WebSphere 5.0 include HTTP clustering for sharing workloads between multiple application servers, and servlet-level clustering for managing the link between the Web and application servers.

Version 5.0 of WebSphere is priced at US$8,000 per processor (Australian pricing will be released today) and runs on Windows platforms, Linux on Intel, IBM mainframes and IBM iSeries systems (formerly AS/400), and Unix variants from IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard.

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