IBM Has Big Plans for WebSphere Software

IBM Corp. Wednesday unveiled plans to expand its WebSphere application server into a piece of middleware infrastructure technology and to create a bevy of Java-based applications that will run on top of it.

As part of the strategy, the company will increase its investment in WebSphere-related product development, marketing and sales activities by more than US$1 billion this year, said John Swainson, general manager of application and integration middleware for IBM's software group.

At a press conference at the PC Expo conference in New York, Swainson laid out plans to transform WebSphere into a Java-based middleware layer on top of which developers will be able to integrate components and services built using Enterprise Java Bean components and services.

IBM announced WebSphere Application Server 3.5, a new release that will be available in standard, advanced and enterprise editions. Two new server components were also introduced: WebSphere Portal Server and WebSphere Personalization. And Swainson said IBM also is developing additional extensions for WebSphere, such as a Web caching tool, a Web site analysis tool and an XML-based voice server.

Until now, WebSphere "was just a Java Bean server with raw programming power," said Nick Gall, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. "You could build a lot with it, but it had no prebuilt functionality" for things such as Internet portals or tracking the usage of Web sites, he said.

Adding that kind of functionality could make it easier to build applications that run on top of WebSphere, Gall said. But IBM's developers "still have their work cut out for them" to deliver on the promises being made by the company, he added.

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