IBM to transform WebSphere

IBM wants to transform its WebSphere application server into an infrastructure platform and double its share of the Java application market. But analysts and users said this week that IBM still has some work ahead of it.

As part of its newly launched strategy, IBM will embark on a year-long, $US1 billion development and marketing project to convert WebSphere into an Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) middleware platform from which customers can more easily run prebuilt Java applications.

Last month, IBM released WebSphere Application Server 3.5 and announced two applications that run on top of it: WebSphere Portal Server and WebSphere Personalization Server.

Nick Gall, an analyst at Meta Group, said bringing applications together under one WebSphere framework makes sense.

"Yesterday, WebSphere was just a JavaBean server with raw programming power; you could build a lot with it, but it had no prebuilt functionality for portals, tracking or shopping carts," Gall said. "Now, it's doing hardware engineering to rewrite WebSphere to run on top of a Java platform, but it still has its work cut out for them."

According to Giga Information Group, IBM trails BEA Systems in the EJB application server market. BEA last year held 32 per cent of the market, compared with IBM's 16 per cent. But Giga predicted that IBM's share will grow to 24 per cent by year's end, while BEA will drop to 24 per cent.

"BEA had a tremendous time-to-market advantage and had viable product in channel by April 1999," said Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga.

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