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The First Services of IBM alphaWorks Debut

IBM is rolling out a trio of new Web-based development services, as the first from the newly launched alphaWorks Services site.

The services extend IBM's 10-year-old alphaWorks efforts into the software as a service arena.

Chris Spencer, emerging technologies strategist for IBM alphaWorks, explained to internetnews.com that alphaWorks is essentially a conduit between IBM's R&D and the early-adopter market.

IBM claims that alphaWorks has introduced almost 700 new technologies, 129 of which have found their way into existing IBM products.

The new Services approach adds Web-based services, two of which are browser-based development tools, to the alphaWorks legacy.

The Ad hoc Development and Integration tool for End Users (ADIEU) is an online development environment for the rapid development of Web Services.

The idea is that developers can deploy services without the need for using traditional programming methods.

They can instead use something IBM refers to as "cards," which are form-based function widgets that can extract data from a Web page or consume existing Web Services.

Web Relational Blocks (WebRB) is a similar sort of service, but with more of a database focus.

"Most of the Web applications that are out there today are simply Web front ends for back-end databases," Spencer said.

"What Web Relational Blocks does is it creates an environment with the browser where you can drag and drop elements to create web application."

"You don't have to understand the database structure on the backend; you can simply say 'I want to create a relationship between this field and that database field,' and the program will just do it for you," Spencer continued.

"It allows you to create and prototype Web front ends relatively easily."

With the new services, IBM is also hedging its bets in the current browser war.

ADIEU works best on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, while WebRB is optimized for Mozilla Firefox.

"Ideally we'd to have all these services not care which browser you're using," Spencer admitted. "Just due to technological constraints that's not always possible."

At this point it's not clear exactly how IBM plans to monetize the new alphaWorks services, or even which division of IBM commercial implementation would reside in.

"The services that we're launching today are all from IBM Research so they are all somewhat agnostic," Spencer said. "That doesn't mean they won't find a home in a specific place; it's just that right now we don't know."

Success for the new services will measured by usage and feedback.

"The main way we're going to judge whether Alphaworks services is successful or not is whether the community views it as valuable," Spencer said.

"We're going to be adding features to the site that will hopefully allow us to gauge that."

IBM is expected to add new services to alphaWorks Services on a regular basis. Among them include the company's QED Wiki, which will be IBM's challenge to the enterprise wiki market.