Commentary: IBM takes lead in services

Although several application service vendors have committed to supporting Web services in their J2EE platforms, Big Blue's announcement makes it the first to deliver a product.

2 min read
By Massimo Pezzini, Gartner Analyst

IBM announced WebSphere Technology for Developers because it wants to keep building the credibility of its e-business middleware strategy and to assert leadership in the emerging Web service arena. No less important is catching up with Java 2 Enterprise Edition competitors.

Although several application server vendors

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IBM advances Web services strategy
have committed to supporting Web services in their J2EE platforms, IBM's announcement on Wednesday makes it the first to deliver a real--albeit functionally limited--product. The announcement further validates the notion of Web services. It follows the announcement of IBM's WebSphere strategy in November and positions IBM as a serious candidate for leadership in both J2EE and Web service technology.

WebSphere Technology for Developers is not production-ready, but rather a preview of WebSphere v.4, the next major update of the WebSphere Application Server family. It runs only on Windows NT and DB2 and supports Web service protocols such as SOAP, UDDI, WSDL and XML, along with related development tools. The WebSphere 4 product set also will include the zSeries run-time version--that is, WebSphere Application Server for z/OS and OS/390, also announced Wednesday--and still unannounced Unix/Windows 2000 versions likely to be available in the second quarter.

The WebSphere release will allow Java developers to familiarize themselves with, and start developing applications for, WebSphere 4 and to experiment with Web service technology.

IBM has trailed other vendors in support for J2EE specifications. For example, WebSphere Advanced Edition 3.5 does not support Enterprise JavaBeans 1.1. WebSphere Technology for Developers fills this gap by being the first WebSphere version officially certified by Sun Microsystems as J2EE-compliant. When available, WebSphere 4 will be, too.

Thanks to WebSphere Technology for Developers, IBM changes from a follower into a leader. In fact, vendors such as BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard/Bluestone Software and iPlanet will have to catch up by quickly delivering SOAP/UDDI capabilities in their application servers--or be marked as technology laggards. Therefore, IBM's announcement will dramatically accelerate the availability of Web service technology, and by the first half of next year, support for SOAP/UDDI will likely become a standard feature of most leading application servers.

This announcement also is likely to increase interest in Microsoft's still immature, Web service-centered .Net initiative.

(For related commentary on XML and Web development, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

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