IBM ramps up WebSphere suite

In September IBM will announce the next layer in its pervasive computing strategy, which involves the company's WebSphere Everyplace suite, its Web application development environment.

John Prial, director of marketing and strategy at IBM's pervasive computing division, said that next month the company would announce general availability dates for the suite as well as major partners in the device space. IBM is already on the record as having partnerships with Nokia, Ericsson, and Palm to deploy IBM's WebSphere e-commerce solution.

"The strategy is focused on creating middleware components such as MQSeries Everyplace to enable an assured transaction across the Internet no matter what the network connection might be," Prial said.

The suite will include an embedded client component for use on everything from set-top boxes to game players, PDAs (personal digital assistants), and mobile phones.

"The aim is ubiquitous access on any range of devices," Prial said. "Our software stack is the same on all of these devices. It becomes an isolation layer running on different OSes and processors with a Java-based engine to run applications on top."

To give users access to their information anywhere, the WebSphere middleware lets users create a digital persona. The user decides what information is public so that data can follow him or her to any device, thus giving users continuous access to information as if they never left their own desktop.

Raj Desai, one of the chief architects in IBM's pervasive computing division, is working closely with the auto industry to deploy WebSphere EveryPlace in cars.

WebSphere is mostly a thin-client architecture that focuses on keeping as much of the computing power as an application will allow on the server side. For example, Desai called a car a '5000-pound thin client'.

Prial recognises, however, that thin clients are not all alike: some are browser-based, some may need more intelligence, and some may have a thicker stack of software. But all these different sources come from the same WebSphere Everyplace-embedded edition.

The benefits of thin-client computing, according to both Prial and Desai, are lower maintenance and support, and in a wireless environment, the technology gives users better access to more current real-time information.

There is also less chance for what Desai calls a lifecycle mismatch because as applications change, only the server needs to be upgraded.

The big challenge that faces pervasive computing as it gets deployed across so many new devices is managing millions of systems rather than thousands of desktops.

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