IBM Unwraps WebSphere Studio Updates

IBM Thursday trumpeted two forthcoming updates to its WebSphere Studio suite of tools, both geared to automating time-consuming tasks in order to speed the development process.

Both fall under the aegis of WebSphere Studio v5.1, and represent another step in IBM’s autonomic computing initiative, which seeks to provide a network of organized, “smart” computing components which give customers “what they need, when they need it, with minimal mental or even physical effort.”

“For any company developing software, doing so predictably and efficiently
and rapidly means competitive advantage,” Bernie Spang, program director
for Application Development Marketing at IBM, told
“The focus, here, is enhancing the ability to automate development tasks.
With WebSphere Studio 5.1, we are including new tools and enhancements to
existing tools to further automate tasks in the development process.”

These updates are intended to streamline tasks like updating individual
pages, changing links within Web sites, and debugging errors in code. For
instance, Big Blue said the new tools will vastly simplify the assimilation
of newly acquired properties, speeding the moving of data, replacement of
company banners, and stripping out logos.

The first tool, WebSphere Studio Site Developer, will become available on
Aug. 29, starting at $1,000 per developer.

Site Developer includes a new Web site designer with templates that allow
developers to update multiple pages on a Web site at once, without having
to apply changes individually. For instance, IBM said a B2B office products
site could update navigation bars or add a “Buy Now” button in the template
and make that change automatically to hundreds of pages. Additionally, a
developer could grab all of the pages from one section of the site — such
as paper products for B2B customers — and move them to the B2C section
while automatically updating the navigation.

The tool also lays the groundwork for support of JavaServer Faces (JSF) —
which will be implemented in another update to WebSphere Studio slated for
later this year — with drag-and-drop development of Web application user
interfaces (UI) through WebSphere Studio’s updated page designer.

JavaServer Faces is an emerging standard intended to simplify developing,
testing and managing the UI. IBM said JSF will save developers who create
UIs for J2EE-based applications hours of hand-coding, because it can do
things like automatically generate the code to connect to data and validate
user input based on definitions already in the database.

Spang explained that v5.1 will provide the ability to drag-and-drop
components like HTML tables, while the future version, with support for
JSF, will allow developers to drag-and-drop actual active pages.

“This update is really setting the foundations for a future update later
this year,” he said.

The second tool is WebSphere Application Monitor for zOS and distributed
systems — like Windows, Unix and Linux — which will be made available in

Application Monitor is designed to help developers automatically predict
problems that create bottlenecks for applications when they are deployed in
the network. For instance, Big Blue said it will help a developer creating
a banking application to predict how big an application server or database
will be required for it, without having to run different test scenarios.

“It’s automating some of the capacity planning from the development
process,” Spang said.

The tool also provides the ability to run WebSphere Application Server
applications in debug mode with hurting performance, IBM said. The company
noted that the new hot method replace function allows developers to change
code and view resulting changes immediately without restarting the server.

WebSphere Studio v5.1 will also bring the product in line with the latest
Web services specifications and support for the latest version of the open
source tool integration platform, Eclipse 2.1. That in turn, provides
WebSphere Studio 5.1 with significant startup time reduction and lower
memory requirements, Spang said.

The update includes implementations of JSR 101 and JSR 109, bringing it
closer to creating Web services for the pending J2EE 1.4 specification. JSR
101 focuses on changed formats for Web services messages to enhance
interoperability, while JSR 109 focuses on standardizing deployment of Web
services in a J2EE container to allow deployment across multiple vendors.

WebSphere Studio 5.1 also includes a number of additional features. The
product includes a UML visual editor for EJB and Java, allowing developers
to visualize and edit J2EE applications using UML notation within a single
integrated development environment.

“What we’re doing with this feature is bringing some of the value of the
UML view code to the IDE,” Spang said. “It’s not a full UML modeling
environment. This feature allows you, when you’re editing Java code, to not
only look at the source code, but flip to a preview view. From a developer
point of view, figuring out these relationships when you’re looking at
source code is a much more challenging thing than looking at them in a
visual layout. This is a virtualization capability for the developers.”

The product also supports the ability to visually create pages for wireless
standards, allowing developers to visually create applications for cell
phones, hand-helds, and other pervasive devices built on standards like
Wireless Markup Language (WML) and Compact HyperText Markup Language
(CHTML). However, Spang noted that this ability is essentially geared to
helping developers create pages that can be read by those devices, more
complex applications are covered in IBM’s WebSphere Everyplace line.

The product also provides the ability to create, test and deploy J2EE
applications to BEA WebLogic v6.1 and v7.0.

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