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IBM unveils tools--with rivals in mind

Big Blue outlines its business software plans at its DeveloperWorks show, all with an eye toward putting some distance between itself and the competition.

IBM has revamped its arsenal of e-business software, as it tries to capture new customers and put some distance between itself and its rivals.

At its DeveloperWorks Live conference in San Francisco, IBM outlined its plans for its family of business software. Topping the list was a new version of IBM's WebSphere application server software, which is used to run e-commerce and other Web site transactions. The new software is intended to help Big Blue gain ground on competitors including BEA Systems, Sun Microsystems and Oracle.

Despite the tough economy, IBM has captured market share in the past year. After years of trailing in the Java application server market, which reached $2.19 billion in sales in 2001, IBM has moved into a tie with BEA for the lead. Application server software is a key piece of infrastructure for application development.

BEA and IBM both have 34 percent market share, followed by Sun with 7 percent and Oracle with 6 percent. In addition, according to a study this week, IBM has surpassed Oracle in sales of database-management software.

"It's a good time for IBM," said Mike Gilpin, an analyst at consultancy Giga Information Group. "A lot of things have come together to put them in a leadership position this year, but it will still be a real horse race."

Version 5 of the WebSphere application server, to be available in the third quarter, will have support for the latest version of Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), the Java standard for business software; for the first time, it will offer built-in support for Web services standards. Web services provide more efficient ways for companies to build software. They are an integration technology, allowing companies to more easily conduct transactions.

"Web services now sit alongside J2EE as a first-class citizen," Gilpin said. "Web services capabilities were a bit pasted on before."

In keynote speeches Wednesday, IBM executives said software integration is more important than ever, and they trumpeted IBM's e-business software as the answer to all businesses' integration needs, tying together operating systems, software, security and data.

"Forty percent of your budgets is wiring stuff together," said John Swainson, general manager of IBM's application and integration middleware division. "The WebSphere family of products can cut costs of integration."

Like its rivals, IBM augments its application server with integration software, which allows companies to link dissimilar business software to share information.

IBM announced updates to its integration software, which spans several product lines. The company introduced WebSphere MQ Event Broker, which allows companies to publish and send information to people based on their personal preferences on multiple devices, such as PCs and handhelds. IBM's new WebSphere Business Integration Server 4.1 includes integration technology from the company's acquisition of CrossWorlds Software earlier this year.

As part of its e-business software, IBM is also releasing an update to its portal-server software, technology that lets companies build portal Web sites for employees, customers and business partners. The new version allows companies to build portal applications and turn them into Web services. Portal applications are small elements of information--such as e-mail, news or sales forecasts--combined on a Web site to deliver a single view of data.

IBM also announced two new software development tools that allow programmers to integrate applications together. WebSphere Studio Asset Analyzer 2, available this quarter, helps companies move older, existing software to the Web. WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer allows Java developers to build and connect Web-based software and turn existing software into Web services.

The company also announced new Tivoli software for managing security. In addition to the new Tivoli software, IBM plans to embed new Tivoli security features inside the new version of the WebSphere application server.

Al Zollar, general manager of Lotus software, reiterated IBM's plan to turn Lotus software into smaller software components, so programmers can embed Lotus software in their applications running on IBM's WebSphere e-business software. Lotus is IBM's family of e-mail, messaging and collaboration software.