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IBM aims tools at computing efficiency

WebSphere add-on intended to help companies get more out of data center gear for demanding business applications.

IBM has developed an add-on to its WebSphere server software designed to improve the management of back-end computing gear in demanding situations.

The new WebSphere Extended Deployment is meant to let corporate customers more efficiently use the infrastructure, such as hardware servers, databases and application servers, that supports business applications. The software will go into beta testing with about 10 IBM customers on Thursday. It is expected to be available in the fourth quarter this year.

The management tools will work in conjunction with WebSphere Network Deployment, a version of IBM's application server transaction software already in use by thousands of customers. IBM expects the software to appeal mainly to companies with complex computing systems and demanding requirements, such as minimal downtime.

With WebSphere Extended Deployment, customers can create a pool of servers dedicated to running WebSphere applications. They can allocate computer processing power based on changes in demand. A company could dedicate extra servers and databases to a finance application at the end of the quarter. WebSphere can configure and install new software automatically or send an alert to administrator, who can manually bring up more machines.

"This is making sure that the machines that you already paid for are configured so you can use them as best as possible and get more out of those machines," said Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere infrastructure at IBM.

The ability to automatically add servers or create "partitions" dedicated to a specific task will also help companies improve performance and reduce glitches that can take an application offline, Sutor said. The new product includes an administration console to better visualize servers in a data center, to help in balancing the computing load across different machines.

Improved administration has become an important area of development for infrastructure software, such as application servers.

BEA Systems, an IBM rival in application server software, signed an agreement with Veritas earlier this year to provide some of the same capabilities for optimizing the use of data center resources. The next version of BEA's WebLogic application server will include an improved management console as part of its Quicksilver integration software.

IBM's WebSphere Extended Deployment can also work in conjunction with its Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator software to automatically provision data center resources from outside a pool of servers dedicated to a WebSphere application. When IBM releases WebSphere Extended Deployment in the fourth quarter, it plans to provide a road map for future development as well as recommendations on how it can be used effectively, Sutor said.