August 3, 2005 10:05 AM PDT

SOA-capable WebSphere expands to mainframes

IBM announced Wednesday that it has launched the latest version of its WebSphere portal software for customers using its mainframe and midrange server hardware.

The launch marks the progression of IBM's newest portal tools, first introduced at the end of 2004, into its widely used zSeries and iSeries products. The upgraded WebSphere software includes IBM's latest effort at offering customers the ability to integrate so-called SOA, or services oriented architectures capabilities, into their IT portals.

SOA is an IT design model through which specific functions of certain systems, labeled as Web services, are decoupled so they can be used independently or alongside other tools to perform explicit computing tasks. The subsequent programs created using SOA are frequently identified as composite applications.

IBM said the biggest step forward with the latest iteration of its WebSphere software is that it lets companies more easily build composite applications in the form of portals that address worker-specific tasks within an organization. For instance, a call center employee using a portal built with the tools could access various pieces of procurement, production or customer relationship management systems in order to garner specific information from each of those applications to better handle client service requests.

In addition to the expanded SOA capabilities, IBM said the new WebSphere software offers customers more-powerful features for Web content management, and for building portals that feature greater levels of customization.

According to Chris Lamb, WebSphere portal market manager at IBM, customers including automaker Volkswagen are already using the technology to build composite applications that better suit workers' needs. He said VW created an application for its procurement employees that has already helped the company improve productivity by roughly 20 percent because it cuts down on the time employees spend searching for certain information.

"The idea is to better integrate people with the business processes they work with, and roll out applications to people who complete business tasks using the portal interface," Lamb said. "A few years ago, people were really just getting started with portals, but now that they've seen the reliability we can offer them. This is a chance to hand over all the things we've learned about helping to build Web services."

Lamb said IBM expects companies within the banking, retail and manufacturing sectors to show the most interest in the new WebSphere tools, as those are niche markets where its zSeries and iSeries server hardware has sold well.

IBM said that it currently counts more than 3,400 customers that use WebSphere, along with 200 business partners that support the technology and have built 500 different products using the tools.

 

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