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IBM plans Web application server

Big Blue will launch a new product for building Net-based business applications and tools for managing them.

IBM is jumping into the rapidly growing market for application server software.

The company today detailed plans to offer WebSphere Application Server, a new product for building Web-based business applications. IBM also announced the WebSphere Performance Pack, which adds tools for managing Web applications.

Application server software is becoming one of the hottest new areas for server software companies. The software is used to link client applications with data and applications on host systems. Analysts claim the software is particularly valuable for e-commerce applications, which typically link into existing databases and need an intermediary layer of software to translate information and manage client access to legacy systems.

The software also can simplify the task of linking incompatible systems and systems located in disparate locations.

A number of software makers, including Oracle, Sybase, Inprise (formerly known as Borland), Netscape Communications, and Microsoft currently offer, or plan to offer, application server software.

International Data Corporation pegs the current application server market as a $400 million-per-year business. By 2001, total application server sales are expected to reach more than $1 billion.

IBM's application server includes a runtime component for supporting Java servlets as well as connectors to common database servers, object-request brokers, and other middleware, IBM said.

WebSphere Application Server works with HTTP servers from Netscape and Microsoft, as well as the Apache Server and the Domino Go Webserver from IBM subsidiary Lotus Development.

The first release of the software will be in June, IBM said. The package will include an HTTP server, a runtime environment, and initial connectors. Pricing has not been announced.

A beta version of the server is posted to IBM's Web site.

The WebSphere Performance Pack, also set to debut in June, will include an enterprise file system, a caching proxy server, and load balancing and monitoring tools, IBM said. No pricing has been announced.

IBM said it will extend the WebSphere product line in the future with an integrated toolset for building and deploying Java applications. The company also will integrate NetObjects Fusion and IBM VisualAge for Java with the application server.