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Big Blue hones e-commerce tools

IBM is updating its tools for building e-commerce software with a new version of the San Francisco Framework.

IBM is updating its tools for building e-commerce software.

The company this fourth quarter will release a new version of the San Francisco Framework, a development tool that features prewritten Java code for applications. It will support Enterprise JavaBeans, a standardized programming model, an important change because previous versions of San Francisco used proprietary IBM technology, analysts say.

The new version will include tools that will allow current San Francisco Framework users to migrate their applications to support Enterprise JavaBeans.

"San Francisco delivers 40 to 60 percent of a completed application and then you get to complete it," said analyst Anne Thomas of the Patricia Seybold Group. "The migration to EJB means developers is not beholden to any specific application server. That makes the framework more appealing."

An application server is software that sits between a Web browser and databases and runs the rules and regulations of an application. Many app server makers today, including IBM, Bluestone, and BEA's WebLogic, support Enterprise JavaBeans.

While it works on EJB compliance, IBM in two weeks will update the framework with a new drag-and-drop tool for developers to build user interfaces to their software, said Joe Damassa, IBM's vice president of application development marketing. Performance enhancements to the framework will allow it to run transactions twice as fast, he added.

IBM is also working on a new version of its Java development tool--Visual Age for Java--with support for SQL J, a standard that makes it faster and easier for developers to get database information; improves access to IBM's DB2 database; and supports the Solaris operating system and Java 2, the latest version of Java.

The new version of Web site development tool WebSphere Studio will include a drag-and-drop tool to build Java Server Pages, allowing developers to add dynamic content, such as graphics and Java applications, to Web pages, Damassa said. It will also include "version control," a feature that lets a team of developers within a company keep track of all the changes while building an application.

Thomas, the analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, said the products together give IBM a cohesive product strategy for developers.

"IBM is making sure you have all the technologies to build applications," she said. If you just want to build Web applications, you've got WebSphere Studio. If you're trying to build applications highly tuned to database connectivity, you've got Visual Age for Java with SQL J support. And if you're trying to build large-scale, comprehensive business applications, you've got San Francisco."

About 200 independent software vendors have licensed the San Francisco Framework to build applications, Thomas said. The Framework includes pre-built Java code for warehouse management and general ledger software.

The 3.0 versions of Visual Age for Java and WebSphere Studio will ship this fourth quarter. The company will release beta versions, including a Linux version of Visual Age for Java, at next week's JavaOne, Sun's Worldwide Java Developer Conference.

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