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IBM Debuts Upgraded WebSphere App Server

Placing greater emphasis on availability than in any previous release of its software, IBM released detailed enhancements to its core WebSphere Application Server (WAS).

The announcement is part of IBM's major upgrade of its WebSphere middleware product lines, its biggest in about two years.

WAS 6 cuts downtime and failover from five minutes to a matter of seconds, an unprecedented boost in continuity and performance for an IBM software server, according to Bob Sutor, director of marketing, WebSphere Foundation Software.

Sutor said the upgrade application server represents the Armonk, N.Y., company's efforts to protect business applications from outages, spanning power failures to hurricanes or tornadoes, that can cost companies thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

For example, financial institutions that broker large transactions online require as close to 100 percent uptime as possible. When an outage at a bank occurs, financial transactions get dropped, costing businesses and people time and money.

Sutor told internetnews.com improvements in WAS 6 spring from the company's autonomic computing technology, which are computing systems designed to self-heal, manage and configure.

After detecting an outage, WAS 6 redirects data to a fail-over server within the same data center, or via the Internet to a completely different location, if needed. Before, administrators had to manually reboot systems.

D.H. Brown & Associates analyst Pierre Fricke said the high-availability and fail-over features could give IBM a leg-up on what current rivals BEA Systems and Oracle currently provide in their application server products.

WAS 6 has a new, drag-and-drop environment that automates tedious steps of application development for programmers. Eliminating hand-coding has been a major bugbear for software companies.

"IBM lagged in ease-of-use and deployment and they certainly improved that with 6," Fricke told internetnews.com. Moreover, Fricke said support for Java Server Faces and Service Data Objects improves the presentation layer on the server-side, making it easier to accommodate different protocols.

With such improvements, IBM hopes to boost its share over rivals BEA Systems and Oracle in the application server space, a multi-billion industry where applications are transferred across hardware servers and networks of all sizes.

There is also increased and up-to-the minute standards support, including WS-Security, which authenticates communications between Web services and WS-Transactions, which makes sure Web services are consistently delivered.

Sutor also said the software embodies a service-oriented architecture (SOA) more than any other application server on the market.

SOAs are related processes and services that can be mixed and matched through reusable software components instead of pieces that are manually coded. What this does is allow businesses to more quickly and efficiently integrate and share applications and data with customers, partners and suppliers. Web services are considered a subset of SOA.

WAS 6 fits into this mold, Sutor said, because IBM's engineers have adjusted it to more easily integrate with customers' systems, regardless of the technology. WAS 6 provides this with faster messaging connectivity to an enterprise service bus , a layer of connection infrastructure that allows transactions to flow between applications.

WAS 6 and a lighter weight Express version will be available by year's end, with pricing to be unveiled at that time.

In related WebSphere software news, new versions of IBM WebSphere Studio Site Developer and WebSphere Studio Application Developer tools are currently planned to be available in the fourth quarter. When they appear, they will be re-branded as IBM Rational Web Developer for WebSphere Software and Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software, respectively.