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Commentary: IBM's Web services tack

IBM is shrewdly reinforcing its support for Web service technology and has articulated a vision for the ultimate evolution of e-business.

By Massimo Pezzini, Yefim Natis, David Smith and Daryl Plummer, Gartner Analysts

IBM is shrewdly reinforcing its support for Web service technology and has articulated a vision--"dynamic e-business"--for the ultimate evolution of e-business, with Web services at the core.

IBM's strategy to make Web service architecture ubiquitous across its software products will enable enterprises to move gradually toward Web services by incrementally adding support for Web service technology to major middleware products. IBM is ensuring that there will be no need to confront radically new concepts, as there will be with Microsoft's dramatically discontinuous .Net platform. By aligning itself with much of Microsoft's vision and providing the missing pieces (such as Java support and help from IBM Global Services), IBM stands to benefit greatly as enterprises move to Web services.

Moreover, IBM's decision to forgo branding of its technology is noteworthy. IBM has even declined to use its successful WebSphere brand to promote its offering. Gartner believes IBM is content to ride the coattails of Microsoft and to fill gaps pragmatically while staying out of much of the limelight.

See news story:
IBM retools for Web services
As with all products in the WebSphere application server family, Application Server v.4 for zOS, OS/390 and iSeries will support Web services, thus allowing for new Java application logic to be exposed as Web services. Legacy applications would have to be wrapped using Java adapter technology and then exposed as Web services. IBM has not yet revealed plans for Web services support for CICS Transaction Server, IMS or OS/400 natively--an odd situation, considering IBM's "save the mainframe" strategy. Gartner believes that IBM has not revealed those plans because Web service technology is not yet ready for enterprise-class systems.

IBM faces competitive pressure from BEA Systems and, therefore, prefers to introduce leading-edge features into its growing WebSphere application server rather than into well-entrenched platforms such as CICS, IMS and iSeries. However, Web service technology will become a key enabler for rejuvenating legacy applications. Gartner believes that IBM will offer support for at least SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) and WSDL (Web Services Description Language) in CICS Transaction Server by 2003 and in the IMS transaction-processing monitor and iSeries by 2004.

Enterprises may embrace the IBM platform as a leading--although not the sole--option for initial Web service developments and trials. However, enterprises should also expect a raft of other product announcements and refinements through at least the second half of 2001 before IBM completes its comprehensive Web service platform.

(For related commentary on IBM's capabilities in e-consulting, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.