IBM on Wednesday formally announced the next major release of WebSphere, code-named Vela, which company officials see as an integral building block for both its ongoing SOA (service-oriented architecture) and On Demand strategies.
Although improvements made in WebSphere Application Server Version 6.0 are weighted toward improving its performance in SOA and On Demand environments, the company also made dozens more enhancements to bolster it in several other areas, including rapid development, resource utilization, higher availability and reliability, and compliance with several recent Web services standards.
"What you see with [Version 6.0] is an augmentation of the product across the board. There is no one feature that really stands up and says, 'This is what this release is all about.' But what you end up with, horizontally, is a product that has been improved in a number of different areas," said Stephen O'Grady, senior analyst at Redmonk.
One of the improvements the company has made is a completely rewritten JMS (Java Message Service) engine that allows the product to be compatible with Java 1.4 and to improve the performance of the embedded messaging. As a result, the product's messaging engine can run the same process as other applications, resulting in some applications running as much as five times faster, according to Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere foundation software at IBM.
"We have also simplified administration by bringing more parts of handling the application server into this single administrative console. It is now very easy to take an app written in Java and, by using the JMS, connect it to a WebSphere MQ [Series] cue. You can do all the configurations via the administrative console," Sutor said.
As a way of moving its ESB (enterprise service bus) strategy forward, IBM has made it easier in Version 6 to connect applications to an ESB, a key piece of its overall SOA strategy.
"I have been saying that ESBs are not single products but an evolving architectural pattern. It has to support existing messaging paradigms like MQ. So this continues to add to the ESB capabilities that already exist, and it moves us down the line for supporting newer Web services standards," Sutor said.
The product now contains a wizards-based drag-and-drop environment designed to automate the more laborious steps involved in development and deployment. By eliminating hand-coding, IBM officials estimate that developers can reduce the number of programming steps needed to build an application by as much as 75 percent. The new drag-and-drop environment also allows developers to build and test applications once and deploy them on multiple systems, a company representative said.
One of the reported strengths of the new version, according to company officials, is its capability of protecting applications against Internet outages by automatically detecting problems, from small network glitches to power failures, and then in a few seconds save and process Web-based transactions.
The company has also added a handful of autonomic capabilities to the product. In the case of an outage, Version 6.0 automatically redirects data to a different designated fail-over server. That server can be either within the same datacenter, or in more catastrophic cases, it will move the data to a different physical location.