IBM Overhauls WebSphere App Server

IBM Wednesday introduced a significant overhaul to its WebSphere J2EE application server, with new support for standards-based messaging protocols, better management features and enhancements to improve availability of applications.

October 6, 2004

3 Min Read
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IBM Wednesday introduced a significant overhaul to its WebSphere J2EE application server, with new support for standards-based messaging protocols, better management features and enhancements to improve availability of applications, according to an IBM executive.

IBM, Armonk, N.Y., has been chanting the mantra of open standards in its software for several years. But critics have long charged that IBM's WebSphere stack is far from being an integrated software infrastructure. Instead, they say, it merged a bunch of software written on disparate code bases under one brand.

The next version of the application server--the foundation of the WebSphere stack--is expected to solve some of those technical issues with an improved messaging framework and other technologies that will lend greater support for open standards.

WebSphere Application Server version 6.0, which is scheduled to ship by the end of the year, also will support the latest enterprise Java standard, J2EE 1.4, said Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere foundation software at IBM. Pricing will be available when the software is closer to being released.

The software's new, modular messaging engine allows support for any messaging standard to be included as a plug-in rather than built in by IBM, Sutor said. Previously, IBM would add support for various messaging protocols, such as TCP/IP or Java Message Service (JMS), in specific versions of the app server, he said. The messaging engine also has been rewritten completely in Java, whereas before it was based on a combination of Java and other technologies.Sutor said the new messaging engine in WebSphere version 6.0 is paving the way for IBM to offer an enterprise service bus (ESB) as part of its stack of infrastructure software, though the engine is just one part of that technology. ESBs typically combine messaging technology, such as JMS, with XML, data transformation and routing technologies and Web services standards to connect various functions across an enterprise.

"When we talk about [an ESB] what we're talking about is being able to universally move info from one place to another place," Sutor said. "This is a very important part of this evolution."

IBM's chief application server rival BEA Systems also plans to build ESB technology in its WebLogic software stack.

An ESB is a core technology that allows solution providers to create a complete service-oriented architecture (SOA), another development paradigm for which Sutor IBM said WebSphere Application Server 6.0 provides enhanced support. SOAs allow applications and components to run as services that can invoke other apps or components in a distributed system. The architecture promises to trim the development, deployment and operational costs of IT systems.

New support in version 6.0 for the latest Web services-based standards such as UDDI 3.0, WS-Transactions and the WS-I Basic Profile 1.1, lay the groundwork for SOAs, Sutor said.IBM also built what Sutor calls a "high-availability manager" into the new version of WebSphere Application Server that allows one app server to better manage app servers running in clusters. The manager also includes self-healing features that will move app server workloads around appropriately in case of a performance failure, as well as provides solution providers with more flexibility in how to divide these workloads among different app severs, Sutor said.

In addition, as part of the new management features of version 6.0, IBM has improved the administration console to give administrators better control over WebSphere application servers running on a network. And IBM will ship the application server with more default management settings based on how the app server has been used in the past "so the out-of-the-box experience will be greatly improved," Sutor said.

IBM also plans to ship the developer tools supporting WebSphere Application Server version 6.0 by year's end, Sutor said. In IBM's ongoing effort to consolidate its application development software into a consistent brand, the tools will be renamed to reflect that they are now managed by the Rational division of IBM, which drives the vendor's overall software development strategy.

WebSphere Site Developer, IBM's tool for building Java-based Web applications, will be rebranded Rational Web Developer for WebSphere Software, and WebSphere Application Developer, which enables solution providers to build enterprise-scale Java applications, now will be called Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software, Sutor said.

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