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WebSphere Dressed For Distributed Computing

IBM sharpened its focus on distributed computing with a new version of WebSphere Application Server and other software tools that make it easier for customers to run a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

As first reported by internetnews.com, IBM is tailoring its new WAS for SOA, which allow applications to act as Web services  to execute business processes.

Robert LeBlanc, general manager of IBM WebSphere Software, said on a conference call that WAS 6.1 includes session initiation protocol (SIP)  hooks to help applications such as voice, video, and instant messaging work together in an SOA.

New security features in WebSphere Application Server include default security configurations and a default user registry for improved identity management, as well as the government's Common Criteria Assurance Level 4 Certification.

The new WAS is part of Big Blue's plan for breaking down the barriers of entry to an SOA to help customers who might want to move to that type of architecture stave off additional costs.

To make the SOA work at a time when software and business needs can change without notice, customers need such tools to help businesses preserve their IT investments, said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's Software Group.

Along those lines, LeBlanc said IBM also updated WebSphere Portal version 6.0, integrating IBM Workplace collaboration software to make it easier for users to build composite applications that can be tailored by industry, role or task. The new release uses a front-end AJAX  tool kit to create a more interactive user environment.

The portal also boasts a workflow builder that uses the process engine from WebSphere Process Server to merge business processes.

To help keep an eye on processes, WebSphere Business Monitor version 6.0 helps customers identify potential issues before they impact the system. This product now includes business intelligence-like tools, including alerts about competition, links to third party reports about performance and scorecards to track the status of projects.

WebSphere Commerce 6.0 lets companies view customers across sales channels, and boasts tools that help merchants simulate the online experience in their store to deliver more personalized customer service.

While many sectors in high-tech focus on cutting-edge technologies as the new trail blazers, Mills said IBM is taking a different view with SOA.

"The information technology industry has reached an important inflection point, one where the focus around technology is less around gadgets and more around how the technology gets applied to transform businesses," Mills said during the call."

"We're in a world now that is much more process-led than technology-led. It's about the business process and process integration."

Mills said the push reflects a large investment of money and resources by IBM, which competes with BEA Systems, Oracle, Microsoft and SAP in this new-fangled application integration and architectural approaches.

IBM recently vowed to sink $1 billion into delivering information as a service, of which its SOA push is an integral part.

Accordingly, IBM is rounding out its latest SOA push with new architecture model for banking and insurance fields, as well as assessments to gauge what kind of infrastructure customers need to set up their SOA. There are also SOA implementation services for IBM's WebSphere middleware, DataPower appliances and Tivoli management and security.

Representatives from IBM customers automotive retail chain Pep Boys and motorcycle maker Harley Davidson joined the call, pledging their allegiance to IBM's SOA products and processes.

Bob Berckman, assistant vice president at Pep Boys, said his company uses IBM's SOA offerings to integrate the operations of its 593 stores and improve customer service.

Harley-Davidson CIO Jim Haney said the company deploys SOA to integrate the various stages associated with motorcycle loans, including credit applications, credit approvals and loan origination.