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IBM, Sun unveil Web services tools

The former announces a starter kit linking the Java language to Web services, while the latter unveils a reference architecture for its SunONE project.

IBM and Sun Microsystems on Tuesday continued their battle for Web services developers by releasing a batch of tools and new technologies.

IBM said it will offer a new starter kit that will allow programmers to use the Java language to build and run Web services. The company has also donated two Web services technologies to the Apache Software Foundation, a nonprofit group that builds free Web software.

Meanwhile, Sun announced a package of software to jump-start the development of Web services that use its products. The Sun Open Net Environment (SunONE) Application Services Reference Architecture is a bundle of the company's Solaris operating system and application server software that can be used as a guideline for building Web services. Sun will also work with partners to custom-build Web services code, bundled onto its Sun Fire servers.

IBM and Sun, along with other Java allies, such as Oracle and BEA Systems, compete against Microsoft in building and selling software that allows businesses to deliver Web services. Every software maker has touted Web services as the future of software.

IBM's new WebSphere Software Developer Kit features the basic tools and software that programmers need to build, test and run Web services, said Scott Hebner, IBM's market director for WebSphere. It also features prototypes, which programmers can use as examples for designing Web services, he said.

The tool kit, aimed at Linux and Windows developers, complements IBM's existing software and tools, including the WebSphere family of e-business software and WebSphere Studio Java development tool, Hebner said. For example, the kit includes a basic application server, which is software that runs e-business and other Web site transactions, and a low-end database, which is software that stores and manages vast amounts of corporate and Web site data. It also includes a private online directory for listing and finding Web services. The online directory supports the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) specification created by IBM, Microsoft and Ariba.

Hebner said future versions of the WebSphere Software Developers Kit will include guidelines for building compatible Web services that are being created by an industry consortium called the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization. The nonprofit group's aim is to ensure that software by rival technology makers is compatible.

IBM has previously released a package, the IBM Web Services Toolkit, that offered early versions of IBM's Web services technologies, allowing developers to build and run Web services. The new WebSphere Software Developers Kit, to be released Thursday, offers more finalized versions of IBM's Web services technologies, an IBM representative said. The new tool kit will be available as a free download on IBM's developer site.

In other news, IBM has also donated two Web services technologies to Apache, a nonprofit organization best known for creating a popular and widely used Web server technology that delivers Web pages to browsers. Like the Linux operating system, Apache is an open source effort, allowing anyone to modify and redistribute the software.

One donated technology, called the Web Services Invocation Framework, allows Web services to travel across different network protocols. It supports Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), a communications format for businesses to link and conduct transactions online, but it also supports other ways of sending messages, including Java Messaging Service, Remote Method Invocation, and even instant-messaging software, Hebner said. For example, the framework will allow simple Web services, such as stock quotes or weather reports, to be sent as instant messages, he said.

IBM has also given to Apache its Web Services Inspection Language for Java, a working version of the WS-Inspection specification created late last year by IBM and Microsoft. WS-Inspection creates a uniform way for companies to find Web services by connecting them to one another's Web sites and complements the UDDI specification. While UDDI acts like the ?yellow pages," where businesses can find a list of companies that cater to their needs, WS-Inspection is for businesses that already know which companies they want to work with and how to contact them but want to see what Web services they offer.

The two IBM technologies--Web Services Invocation Framework and Web Services Inspection Language for Java--can be downloaded free from Apache's site. IBM previously donated two technologies to Apache, including a working version of SOAP for the Java programming language.