IBM's affections for service-oriented architectures deepened today when Big Blue offered details on the impending version 6 release of WebSphere Application Server.
Due before year's end, version 6 includes enhanced support for Web services specifications and Java 2 Enterprise Edition 1.4, as well as other features that simplify the development and deployment of SOAs departmentally or enterprise-wide.
"If I were someone deploying an SOA, I'd move to it fairly quickly," said Pierre Fricke, analyst with D.H. Brown Associates, of Port Chester, N.Y. "They will need these capabilities to make it easier."
Simplicity is central to version 6. In addition to support for WS-I Basic Profile 1.1, WS-Security 1.0, WS-Transactions, J2EE 1.4 and UDDI version 3, WebSphere Application Server makes it easier for enterprises to expose their Java assets and integrate them with an SOA. IBM said it has also rewritten the Java messaging engine in WebSphere to speed up processing by as much as five times.
"They're delivering more of the key pieces to deploy an SOA, and that's a big deal," Fricke said. "Not to say the competition won't do the same, but IBM is getting its stuff out quicker. This is critical for WebSphere and Java because of IBM's large installed base."
Stephen O'Grady, analyst with Red Monk Inc. of Bath, Maine, said SOA is at early stage of enterprise adoption, but certainly on the drawing board for companies. He added that WebSphere 6's enhanced Web services and integration features will help companies in advanced planning or early deployment stages.
"This release is likely to be of most interest to customers fairly high up the food chain; customers with serious reliability and scalability requirements, or a mandate to migrate to an SOA," O'Grady said. "SOA is at this point certainly more than a buzzword -- there are certainly a variety of case studies that speak to this. That said, the market for SOA technologies is very nascent, and is only now getting on to the radar for many enterprises."
Dr. Bob Sutor, IBM director of WebSphere infrastructure software, said companies are starting to recognize the flexibility and reuse of SOAs with flexible business processes.
"To me, business processes are like a flow chart," Sutor said. "The question is, how do you map those pieces with what you are doing in IT?"
Version 6 will help, Sutor said. It supports the latest versions of the WS-I's Basic Profile, which lays out interoperability guidelines for Web services, J2EE 1.4, the Web services release for Java, Sutor said, and UDDI version 3, a Web services registry with enhanced digital signature support and the capability to subscribe to certain registry entries where a developer would be notified if services change or new interfaces are added.
"A lot of developers test for departmental deployments," Sutor said. "If you have a departmental registry and you want to move it to enterprise-wide, UDDI version 3 makes it possible."
Version 6 also supports the WS-Transaction specification, which addresses short request-response messages.
In addition, version 6 includes new high availability clustering features that will help the on-demand aspects of an SOA, Sutor said. The features ensure that in the event of an outage, a transaction is picked up by another server and completed.
Complementary to the WebSphere release is the announcement IBM has rebranded two development tools to reflect its acquisition of Rational Software last year. WebSphere Studio Site Developer and WebSphere Studio Application Developer have been rebranded as Rational Web Developer for WebSphere Software and Rational Application Developer for WebSphere software, respectively.
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