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WebSphere, SOA Upgrades on Deck From IBM

IBM is planning a significant announcement Monday concerning the company's growing service-oriented architecture (SOA) effort to help companies tuck their software applications into distributed computing systems, internetnews.com has learned.

The company declined to comment ahead of the event, but several sources said the news centers around a continuation of IBM's software and services onslaught, which has been gaining steam in recent weeks.

One source confirmed that the news will include a new version of WebSphere Application Server, IBM's core product in the competitive application deployment software market, which IDC said is worth $7 billion.

Application servers are software engines that run applications on the Internet. They are a cornerstone of SOAs , systems that allow customers to use Web services  to shuttle requests between disparate computing networks.

Another source said the news will include and build on Big Blue's SOA Governance, a suite of software, processes and services launched last week to help customers create policies in their distributed computing systems.

SOA Governance, designed to help businesses corral the incalculable number of services in a network, includes the IBM WebSphere Service Registry and Repository. These software "yellow pages" can help customers find, use and manage service metadata used in an SOA.

A source familiar with the situation told internetnews.com that IBM will also explain how its information-as-a-service strategy will help pull together its "database and middleware businesses more closely, within an SOA context."

Information-as-a-service is IBM's plan bringing together information trapped in disparate software engines, such as databases and content repositories.

Big Blue has $1 billion riding on this effort over the next three years.

Steve Mills, senior vice president and software group executive, is expected to hold a teleconference on Monday to discuss the products and strategic focus.

In a recent interview, Mills said SOAs will play a key role in harnessing data in IBM's information-as-a-service move.

This is because computers hooked up in an SOA can execute anything from simple service orders, to large purchase orders. SOAs are also prized because they allow programmers to reuse code and other assets, lowering development costs and saving time.

Software vendors such as IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle Microsoft and SAP have such large stakes in online computing that they are all embracing SOA as the most affordable way to conduct business online.

IBM is widely considered to be at the forefront at this movement.

The company has thrown considerable weight and resources behind the SOA and Web services concepts for the last two years.

But experts agree the race for SOA supremacy is young, and that the multi-billion-dollar opportunity in the field is far from being realized. Competition should be fierce, particularly with Microsoft, IBM's biggest challenger in this market.

Sandy Carter, vice president of WebSphere for IBM's software group, said in an interview earlier this month that the software unit was told by CEO Sam Palmisano to "double down" on its SOA initiative.

IBM will try to raise the stakes Monday.