IBM's app server to unite technologies

IBM in September intends to start shipping its high-end, transaction-oriented application server, WebSphere Enterprise Edition, with an emphasis on providing a coherent application development platform that ties together many of its systems and architectures.

To be unveiled this week at IBM's Solutions '99 conference in Las Vegas, WebSphere Enterprise Edition, which is priced at $US35,000 per processor, brings together under one umbrella a number of previously distinct technologies, including MQ Series, Encina, TX Series, Component Broker, and VisualAge for Java.

WebSphere Enterprise Edition includes an Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) 1.17B-compliant run time, which supports entity and session beans, as well as both container- and Bean-managed persistence. With its CORBA and Encina support, the run time also supports non-Java components, and offers full Microsoft COM support when running on Windows NT servers.

"You can hook up to a number of back-end systems - DB2, Oracle, transaction systems, distributed transaction systems, message-oriented systems, and SAP - and connect simultaneously to these multiple systems to create brand-new business processes," said Nigel Beck, program director of WebSphere marketing at IBM. "You can do distributed transactions across mixed sources."

Analysts said the arrival of WebSphere Enterprise Edition - which joins WebSphere Advanced and WebSphere Standard editions - marks a milestone for IBM.

"This is absolutely critical for IBM. [These are] their large-scale, big-money accounts," said Sally Cusack, an analyst at IDC. "No one understands IBM's high-end transaction base better than IBM. Microsoft can't touch that area."

"IBM through WebSphere is turning a garage full of great technology, like Encina and MQ Series, into a relatively coherent platform for application development that runs across their platforms," said Eric Brown, an analyst at Forrester Research. "That's an achievement for them. This pulls in the last bits."

Although WebSphere may not support the latest Java standards - full Java 2 support is forthcoming, for example - it satisfies the needs of the current market, Brown said.

"IBM is aligned with market adoption," he added. "The skills required to do component architectures are hard to come by. Users are just figuring out how to do distributed computing. So I wouldn't call them late to the game. [It targets the issues] of legacy connectivity and [the] distributed-transaction nature of an application that's reaching deep into the systems."

IBM is bringing out the Enterprise Edition of WebSphere last, allowing the standard version to tackle dynamic content presentation and the advanced edition to produce application components. Enterprise Edition, with Extensible Markup Language support, is about integration, IBM's Beck said.

"Now our customers are getting into more sophisticated systems. They need stuff that can converge back-end systems with a variety of other systems that can provide very high throughput and still offer the componentised advantages of EJB," Beck said.

All of the components in Enterprise Edition are Tivoli-ready. That means if a company has a Tivoli infrastructure in place, it can be managed from that console, according to IBM officials.

"This is the workhorse and centerpiece of our application technology strategy for the next millennium," Beck said. "On a scale of one to 10 in importance for IBM, this is an 11, like Spinal Tap."

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