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IBM to unveil new Web services tools

Big Blue is planning to announce on Monday the newest version of its application server software intended to make it easier to build Web services programs.

    IBM plans to announce on Monday the newest version of its application server software intended to make it easier to build Web services programs.

    As previously reported, IBM WebSphere Application Server version 5 will feature additions designed to let developers more quickly build applications from multiple Java components. The application server and its companion development toolset, WebSphere Studio Version 5, is geared toward providing the infrastructure to let a company integrate its business processes, whether they're internal or involve interactions with partners and customers.

    Application server software--a $2 billion market according to IDC--is used to run Web-based business software, which lets companies build applications that access databases and other back-end software. In this area, IBM competes with BEA Systems, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

    IBM said that WebSphere version 5 will serve as the underlying platform for its server software, including its DB2 database software and its Lotus Notes and Domino e-mail and communications software.

    The other major players in the application server software market are pursuing a similar strategy, bringing together an increasing number of tools to let users work on both development and integration. Analysts said IBM's WebSphere has an advantage over offerings from competitors because the software is tightly integrated with IBM's development tools.

    Some of this version's additions include broad support for Web services standards and new autonomic computing features--technology for creating computing systems that can configure, tune and repair themselves. The software is also designed to lay the foundation for grid computing, which IBM touts as a way for businesses to buy computing power on demand, similar to the way electricity and other utilities are purchased.

    "Support for Web services is a must-have feature; it is not a distinguishing feature for the product," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk.

    "Other vendors have some elements of automation like notification, but IBM is doing more around self-healing than others," said O'Grady. "The autonomic features could distinguish it from the pack."


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    The new WebSphere version supports Web services technologies based on the latest Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard. The company said the software also supports many technologies that will be part of future releases of J2EE.

    Other features designed to make it easier to build Web services programs include the following:

    • Web Services Invocation Framework (WSIF), a technology created by IBM for developing Web services across a variety of network and transport protocols, from HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to instant messaging.

    • Axis 3.0, new Web services technology that Big Blue says can process Web services requests three to four times faster than is currently possible.

    • Web Services Gateway, designed to provide a more managed and secure environment for Web services across the Internet.

    • A private UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) repository, intended to let a company search for Web services within the organization and then combine them.

    • Web services workflow, designed to let developers build networked applications that link multiple business processes.

    IBM said that WebSphere version 5 supports the Windows, Linux, IBM eServer zSeries and iSeries, AIX, Solaris and HP-UX operating systems.

    The software will be available for download beginning Tuesday, IBM said. It will be priced at $8,000 for a single-server configuration and at $12,000 for the multiserver version.