The company is making the "technical preview" available as a free download to let developers and other software providers become familiar with new features, according to IBM. A final version of the new release is expected to ship in the second half of the year.
The most significant addition to the early product, called WebSphere Application Server Technology for Developers version 6, is support for the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) version 1.4 standard. This capability will simplify the creation of Web services applications using Java as a programming language, said Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere infrastructure at IBM.
IBM competitor Sun Microsystems, which controls the Java standard, in December
That software, called Sun Application Server 8.0, serves as both Sun's low-end Java server product and as a reference implementation of the J2EE 1.4 standard, which Java licensees can use to measure compliance with the standard.
IBM's initial release of WebSphere 6 is intended to be a simple, low-end version of its Java server software. Later this year, IBM will release follow-on editions of WebSphere 6 which will include more advanced features, Sutor said.
WebSphere is now compliant with the interoperability guidelines, called the "basic profile," put out by the(WS-I) group. "That means that even though a Web service is written in Java, because it follows the WS-I profile, it can talk to anything else, no matter what language it's written in," Sutor said.
Some of the new features in WebSphere will help bolster IBM's ongoing effort to court independent software vendors (ISVs) to build applications using IBM's Java middleware, Sutor said.
WebSphere 6 adds support for the Java Connector Architecture (JCA), a way to use Java programs to existing back-end systems. These enhanced integration capabilities will make it simpler for ISVs to connect their applications to other systems in a corporation, Sutor said.