WebSphere Strategy Coalesces

SAN MATEO (06/23/2000) - After months of talking about it in bits and pieces, IBM Corp. next week will outline how it will position WebSphere as the software hub of its e-business strategy, bringing together a core group of platform services.

IBM has been slowly evolving its WebSphere strategy to one that presents an underlying server and middleware foundation for function-specific services and applications. Some liken it to packaging an operating system with its related services.

Although IBM executives are not expected to make any explicit comparisons to Microsoft Corp.'s Microsoft.Net initiative announced last week, the company at least believes that WebSphere even now can offer many of the same benefits in helping users craft inherently cross-platform products and services.

"The idea of servers working cooperatively to complete high-level transactions is one of the base-level capabilities of WebSphere, which we have had for a while. Using some of the Visual Age tools, users can create those connections without having to worry about what the interfaces are," said Steve Mills, general manager at IBM Software Group's Solutions and Strategies unit in Somers, New York.

In January at its Lotusphere conference, IBM executives, including vice president John M. Thompson, talked about Websphere as a "technology foundation" on top of which would sit a number of IBM-based application services, along with a variety of other products and services supplied by its business partners.

"They see this going forward as the integrated platform on which to develop your e-business applications and services," said one source familiar with the company's plans.

Such services and servers include e-commerce, pervasive computing, voice-processing, and business-to-business exchanges, some of which have already been announced.

While IBM continues to focus on application server performance and middleware effectiveness, those technologies are shifting into the category of commodity products. The company's strategic advantage will come from the WebSphere-compatible services and the applications that tap into them, according to IBM officials.

One related area of user concern has been the degree of compatibility and consistency among Java implementations. Although IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. have clashed over some licensing and branding issues, their respective technologies are more in sync, according to sources.

For example, IBM has achieved portability of its EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans)-compatible WebSphere Business Components on its own WebSphere server platform and others, such as the Sun-Netscape Alliance's iPlanet, said sources.

To back up its positioning and road map statements, IBM next week will unveil several more new WebSphere-based products.

WebSphere evolves

Big Blue is pushing a multilevel model for WebSphere.

Foundation: Web application servers, transaction systemsFoundation services: Project development, Web site creation, IT supportApplication services: e-commerce, collaboration, business-to-business communicationPartner applicationsSOURCE: IBMDomino meets WebSphereLotus Development Corp. used its DevCon developer conference this week to tout the concept of collaborative commerce and introduce an integrated Domino and IBM WebSphere pilot package.

According to Lotus officials, the company hopes to remedy the current lack of collaboration in business-to-business e-commerce.

To illustrate this concept, Lotus previewed Sametime 2.0, due to ship in the third quarter. The former instant messaging client will support application sharing, whiteboard capabilities, broadcasting, awareness monitoring, and a single API, said Bethann Cregg, senior manager of Knowledge Management Product Marketing at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Lotus.

Integration of Domino and WebSphere, announced in January, also moved forward with the integration of Domino and WebSphere Advanced Edition into a pilot package that contains the foundation integration technology, said Arthur Fontaine, Domino Application Server marketing manager.

Fontaine said the next release, expected in the fourth quarter, will contain a common cookie for Single Sign-On, a single administration model, and the first bits of pervasive Java and LotusScript development model support.

Lotus will market an XML toolkit, currently in beta testing, to publish Domino data in XML formats. Lotus also launched Domino Workflow 2.1 for creating workflow processes.

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