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IBM to beef up integration software

Big Blue plans to augment its WebSphere Java-based server software, creating an "enterprise service bus" that can translate among different communications methods.

IBM plans to beef up its WebSphere Java-based server software to better position itself in the emerging market for flexible infrastructure software.

Over the course of this year and next, the company will enhance its WebSphere server-based messaging software with support for industry standards, including Web services, the company told CNET News.com on Friday. IBM's goal is to offer customers tools for making computing systems more flexible and cost-effective, according to IBM executives.

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Messaging software acts as the wiring that connects corporate systems, transferring data and transactions between different applications such as a mainframe and a company's Web-based sales software. Although messaging middleware has been around for decades, several companies that have used the so-called enterprise service bus (ESB) label in the past few years have introduced standards-based messaging software, generally at a lower cost than proprietary ware, according to analysts. IBM first revealed plans last year to offer its own ESB.

IBM later this year will offer an ESB called Services Integration Bus, a stripped-down messaging product based on Java messaging standards, said Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere infrastructure at IBM. In the second half of the year, IBM will offer enhanced ESB with support for messaging systems already in use as well as for Web services, Sutor said. The goal is to create integration software that can translate among several different communications methods.

"What we're striving toward is something that lets you include everything you could do before--all the enterprise messaging--and lets you look at the new standards," Sutor said.

As Web services specifications evolve, IBM will continue to augment its ESB products, Sutor said. For example, IBM's Web portal software will be able to communicate directly with the messaging infrastructure via Web portal standards, he said.

IBM's ESB will support the Business Process Execution Language specification for automating company work flow. It will also work with wireless networking protocols, Sutor said.

"Since we consider this a very core aspect of services-oriented architecture...clearly, over time, we will be augmenting our products," Sutor said.

IBM's ESB plans will spill over into the company's WebSphere application server as well. WebSphere Application Server 6, due in the second half of this year, will be revamped to better work with a Web services-based messaging infrastructure, Sutor said.

IBM competes with several companies for messaging integration software, including BEA Systems, Oracle, Tibco Software, SeeBeyond Technology, WebMethods and Sonic Software. Microsoft is working on a messaging infrastructure product, called Indigo, for Longhorn, the next version of Windows. Like IBM's initiative, Indigo will incorporate support for advanced Web services standards for use in large-scale corporate applications.

Reliable integration software for shuttling information among corporate applications is an important foundation for a services-oriented architecture, analysts say. The traditional means for sharing information within a company or with business partners is to hardwire connections between applications. A messaging-based integration system is more flexible, because it doesn't require as much manual coding and can be altered more easily.

"All corporations are trying to figure out how to build an infrastructure that is agile and solid," said Joanne Correia, an analyst at Gartner Dataquest. "Services-oriented architectures are now very viable, and companies are understanding the benefits."

With interest growing in services-oriented architectures, companies that supply infrastructure software, such as IBM, BEA, Oracle and Microsoft, are seeking to provide the tools to build a corporate services-oriented architecture, she said. BEA, for example, later this year will launch Project Sierra to promote the use of its infrastructure software for services-oriented architectures.