IBM hashing out WebSphere plans

More componentization and additional dynamic language support eyed for the application server platform

IBM plans more componentizing of its WebSphere Java application server as well as additional dynamic language support, a company executive said on Thursday.

Interviewed at the SD West 2009 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Savio Rodrigues, IBM product manager for WebSphere Application Server, said componentizing of the application server will continue with extensions to the existing version 7 of WebSphere or with other upgrades.

[ For more from IBM's WebSphere group, see "The cloud-SOA connection" on InfoWorld. ]

"In future versions, we're going to extend our work with OSGi to further componentize the app server so that finer-grain components are started up," he said. For example, WebSphere currently launches a full Web services stack, but future improvements could include only launching specific Web services frameworks instead of all of them.

Currently, WebSphere's runtime configuration services capability, which is geared to developers, only starts up necessary parts of the application server container needed for a specific application.

Application servers feature build, run, and management phases in their operations, said Rodrigues. "In the build stages, there's work that the WebSphere team has to do in terms of making the development time much simpler for the developer, so this talks about the tooling that you have but also the application server so that it’s very lightweight, boots up quickly, [and] you don't need to restart when you make changes to the configuration," he said. "All of that stuff is what you should be expecting from WebSphere, and that's some work that we need to do."

Additional scripting language backing is eyed as well. WebSphere developers now can use the PHP and Groovy languages with WebSphere sMash, a platform for quickly building Web 2.0 applications. IBM could add support for languages like Python and the Ruby on Rails Web framework to both sMash and the larger WebSphere platform, Rodrigues said.

Support for dynamic languages helps with developing situational applications that need to be completed in days, said Rodrigues. "[For] that type of application, something like PHP or Groovy is much better for [that]," he said.

More support for programming models also is planned for WebSphere. Technologies like Service Component Architecture and Spring are supported now.

Rodrigues served on a panel at the conference that pondered the application server "frontier." An expansion of the role of application servers was stressed by panelist Larry Cable, an architect at Oracle.

"Well, I think that over the last 10 years with Java technology, we've really taken Java to the core of server-side applications. Application servers now appear not only as the foundation for end-user custom applications, but also are the foundation for a whole series of other programming models," such as enterprise service buses, Cable said.

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