January 31, 2005 8:28 AM PST

IBM beefs up WebSphere for integration

IBM will bulk up the standards-based integration tools in the next version of its WebSphere server software, reflecting the consistently strong demand among corporate customers for software to glue disparate systems together.

Code-named Pyxis, the next edition of WebSphere will add support for the latest Web services communications protocols and build on the machine-to-machine messaging software the company recently introduced, said Robert LeBlanc, general manager of IBM's application and integration middleware division. Likely to be called WebSphere 7, the software is due for release in late 2005 or early 2006.


Robert LeBlanc
IBM general manager

IBM is also looking to introduce versions of WebSphere for specialized purposes, LeBlanc said. The company already has a WebSphere application server designed for radio frequency identification (RFID) applications, and a "pervasive" edition serving up data to embedded and handheld computing devices.

WebSphere is IBM's brand for a line of server software products, including an application server for running Java programs and WebSphere Business Integration, which is used specifically for handling integration tasks. Integration software moves data and transactions between different systems, such as a sales application and an inventory system. It promises to streamline business processes and provide a better view of ongoing operations.

Competition in this market for infrastructure software, or middleware, is fierce, with IBM battling for the top spot against BEA Systems and Microsoft. Meanwhile, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and open-source alternatives are girding to challenge for a larger chunk of middleware spending. IBM also competes with integration software specialists, such as Tibco.

In the quarter ended Dec. 31, IBM's WebSphere division saw revenue climb 18 percent, year over year. The results were aided by the release of a new version of WebSphere in December. Still, LeBlanc said that those numbers indicated that IBM is taking market share from rivals.

"I'm looking to put more distance between me and my competitors, and I think that '05 gives me the opportunity to do that, especially with the momentum we had at the end of '04," he said.

IBM this year intends to release an update to WebSphere Business Integration and expand on the standards-based integration software, called an enterprise service bus, in its WebSphere application server. Both of those WebSphere products will add support for Web services specifications under development, including those for security and reliable messaging, LeBlanc said.

The tooling will also be enhanced to simplify the process of building a service-oriented architecture, a way of writing applications that makes it easier to reuse and combine individual programs.

"There will be more and more support for Web services and service-oriented architecture, because we're clearly seeing a lot customer interest," said LeBlanc.

Spending on integration has been strong, as corporate customers seek to make their systems more efficient by forging closer links between systems they already own, analysts said. Also, integration software, particularly messaging-oriented tools that send data between machines, is considered the foundation for more modern system designs, such as a service-oriented architecture.

 

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