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IBM Updates WebSphere Application Server

By Jay Lyman
Oct 6, 2004 12:52 PM PT

IBM unveiled its much-anticipated WebSphere Application Server Version 6 this week, touting self-healing and management features that will save businesses from downtime and developers from drudgery.

IBM Updates WebSphere Application Server

Big Blue said the new WebSphere infrastructure software -- a Java-based middleware package for tying applications together and managing them -- and its automatic failover features would spare businesses from the enormous costs of downtime. IBM cited improved protection against application downtime, automated "wizards" to replace irksome application development and deployment tasks, improved scalability for more users, and Web services support.

"We really see [reliability] as a key factor, and we expect that to be of great interest to the business side," IBM spokesperson Ron Favali told TechNewsWorld. "We also think the self-healing is something that will help developers by eliminating some of the more tedious processes."

Answering a Need

Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio believes the WebSphere application server update is the natural progression of a technology development effort started by IBM in the late 1980s. The new software addresses what has become a more critical issue for businesses, she told TechNewsWorld.

"There is a need," DiDio said. "Nobody can afford downtime."

The analyst said that this is an extension of IBM's move toward building self-healing or self-maintenance functions into hardware.

"We had this notion of self-healing in hardware," she said. "Now we're seeing it realized and utilized in the software."

Like Brakes for a Car

DiDio said it would not be difficult for IBM to convince corporate users of the value of its WebSphere application server, which the company says should be available in early December.

"IBM's pitch is, 'Yeah, you need this,'" DiDio said. "This type of functionality is going to become as much of a requirement as performance and throughput," she said of the new safeguards against outage. "It's like brakes on a car. It's absolutely necessary because so much can go wrong."

DiDio said that rather than a single point of failure, corporations now face a much more complex infrastructure with more sophisticated operating systems and many applications.

At the same time, she said, companies are still struggling to find enough skilled IT staff and support.

"That means you have to maximize the functionality of the technology you're using," DiDio said.

Testing and Migrating

IBM's Favali said the company had been conducting "a fairly extensive beta program" for the new WebSphere application server in order to get additional feedback.

DiDio said the traditional IBM testing meant that "leading-edge users" had helped determine what did or did not go into the new WebSphere software.

Referring to an "Express" version of the application server for smaller businesses, DiDio said IBM was aiming at companies that had weathered the downturn and are now looking to the future.

"Customers are cautiously opening their wallets and exploring once more," DiDio said, because they have to migrate to newer technology in order to compete.

The analyst also viewed the Express version of the new WebSphere server as a recognition that the small and midsized business (SMB) market is real.

"The SMB market has become much more pivotal and crucial to everyone," DiDio said. "The [larger] enterprises are less fluid and agile to upgrading. The SMBs want the same leading-edge technologies and features and functions as their enterprise counterparts do. They're demanding it."

Referring to other "lite" and small business versions of software from IBM competitor Microsoft, DiDio said Big Blue was also looking beyond the North American and European markets to Asia Pacific with its WebSphere strategy, adding that the company is "revered" in Japan.

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