Candle packages WebSphere services, tools

Candle Corp. announced a series of packaged service and tools offerings for helping customers design and build an application infrastructure using IBM Corp.'s WebSphere middleware, including its WebSphere Application Server and MQ products.

Candle has offered tools and services for IBM middleware customers for some time but acknowledges that over the years its offerings have became fragmented. Responding in part to the slow economy, which has led customers to do more focused projects that offer faster returns, it came up with the series of modular, fixed-price offerings announced Monday.

"We recognized we had a very fragmented approach, and at the beginning of the year we realized we needed to draw those assets together and package them" to better address customer needs, said David Caddis, vice president of Candle's application infrastructure management group.

The result is PathWAI, which includes seven packages of services and tools that range in starting price from US$17,000 to about $100,000. Available now, they include modules for designing a WebSphere infrastructure, validating the design through pilot projects, pre-production testing and tuning, and ongoing management and monitoring.

The goal is to help companies spend as little as they can to roll out their initial applications, but design the system in such a way that it can be extended to include additional applications in the future. Departments typically don't want to foot the bill for an infrastructure that will be used eventually to support all of a company's applications, so helping customers build in a modular fashion was a priority, Caddis said.

One analyst who looked at PathWAI said it could be popular among IBM's customers.

"I think it's a nice offering because Candle does have a depth of expertise in WebSphere," said Audrey Rasmussen, a vice president and analyst with Enterprise Management Associates Inc., in Boulder, Colorado.

"When you create a custom solution for a customer you have to work out a lot of the bugs, but when you productize solutions like this and offer them to a lot of customers, then the bugs become fewer and in the long run you get more reliable code," she said.

Candle is a longtime IBM partner. It's a WebSphere reseller, and IBM is the largest customer for Candle's WebSphere tools. Caddis said he's not afraid of competition from IBM Global Services because that group tends to deal with much larger projects.

"A $100,000 services engagement is probably not something that's very effective for IBM to go after, their typical engagement is much larger," he said.

"We're not a systems integrator," he added. "The value we try to deliver is the domain expertise that can give customers a degree of self-sufficiency. We aren't there to do $5 million service engagements, we're there to get them past the pain points."

Still, while PathWAI may complement IBM's own products and services, Big Blue is constantly adding tools and functions to its middleware stack, and there's always a possibility that it could encroach on Candle's turf, noted analyst Rasmussen.

On the tools side Candle competes with vendors including BMC Software Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc.

Candle says it has done around 2,000 WebSphere implementations over the years. About 80 percent of those were built around WebSphere MQ (formerly MQ Series), 15 percent around WebSphere MQ Integrator, and 5 percent around WebSphere Application Server, Caddis said. The proportion of application server customers has been growing since it began working with that product about 18 months ago, he said.

The seven PathWAI modules announced Monday are: Architecture for WebSphere, Development for WebSphere, Deployment for WebSphere, Monitor for WebSphere Application Server, Dashboard for WebSphere Infrastructure, Monitor for WebSphere MQ and Dashboard for WebSphere MQ. Candle says it has customers in 60 countries and the offerings announced Monday are available worldwide.

It plans to add another module, PathWAI Planning for WebSphere Operations, in the first quarter next year, Caddis said. At the same time it plans to offer a "starter pack" for developers getting started with WebSphere Application Server. The Web-based offering will be priced at less than $1,000, Caddis said.

The PathWAI offerings were announced the same day IBM released an upgrade to its WebSphere Application Server, version 5. It includes self-configuring and self-tuning features that are part of IBM's broader autonomic computing efforts, as well as support for additional Web services standards, said Stefan van Overtveldt, director of WebSphere technical marketing.

"It has a significant number of capabilities to really make an application server function as an integration server," he said.

WebSphere Application server competes with offerings from BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others.

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