IBM heads toward next generation of app servers

Componentized version of WebSphere will let users mix and match functions across IBM's portfolio of apps

IBM revealed that it is working on a componentized version of WebSphere, code-named Vela, which the company said represents the next generation of application servers.

The forthcoming edition, due in the second half of next year, will serve as the foundation on which corporate users can mix and match components, or functions, from across IBM's complete portfolio of server applications.

With a componentized approach, Vela will better empower users to import core functions from IBM's Tivoli, Lotus Notes, and DB2 as needed to extend the capabilities of WebSphere to meet their particular application needs.

"Vela is what we consider to be the next generation of application servers and, in our particular case, it will serve as the universal foundation for the [IBM] software group's products," said Bob Sutor, director of IBM's WebSphere software.

Vela's ability to be receptive to mixing and matching components is intended to encourage corporate users to more quickly gravitate toward an on demand computing environment where shuttling in a variety of applications and computing power is a way of life.

"What [Vela] is providing on one hand is a foundation for the software group, but it is going to be part of the foundation for what we are doing with On Demand, grid, and autonomic computing as well. It will also fit in with service-oriented architectures and some things we will deliver there next year," Sutor said.

The industry's long-time dream of creating widely accepted componentized architectures and applications has remained just that. But with Vela, IBM believes it can avoid some of the development missteps of the past. Sutor believes there are more technical pieces in place, such as service-oriented architectures and XML, which should help crystallize that dream.

 "A lot of the reason why componentization did not work was that the pieces were not loosely coupled enough. There were too many dependencies among the pieces, in terms of understanding how you talk to them as well as the way you connected them," Sutor said.

One corporate IS executive said he would be welcome a version of WebSphere that would lend his operation the flexibility of bringing in core functions from other applications to enable him to piece together a solution that could quickly solve a pressing problem.

"This might be a nice way for me to start looking at what the possibilities for an on-demand environment are all about. If this can end up sucking some development costs out of our budget and deliver this sort of capability when I need it, where do I sign," said Frank Carvey, a systems architect with Exxon-Mobile.

IBM helped its cause this week by announcing support for standards for Web services security across the company's WebSphere infrastructure and Tivoli identity management products. Company officials believe this will extend the middleware platforms for building more secure service-oriented architectures.

As part of the announcement, IBM will support the WS-Security roadmap for expressing identity information including the Security Assertion Markup Language  (SAML) and Kerberos. Company officials believe that in the world of systems-oriented architectures, business processes can be exchanged as interchangeable tasks or services, including Web services, and Java adaptors.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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