IBM plots componentized app server

Forthcoming WebSphere to enable mix and match of Tivoli, Louts, DB2 functions

IBM revealed that it is working on a componentized version of WebSphere that will enable users to mix and match functions from across IBM’s complete portfolio of server applications.

With its componentized approach, the new iteration, code-named Vela, will allow users to import core functions from IBM’s Tivoli, Lotus Notes, and DB2 as needed, extending the capabilities of WebSphere to meet specific application needs.

“Vela is 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 WebSphere software at IBM.

The mixing and matching allowed by Vela is intended to encourage corporate users to move toward on-demand computing, 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-held dream of creating widely accepted componentized architectures and applications has remained just that. But with Vela, IBM intends to avoid some of the development missteps of the past. Sutor said that vital technical pieces -- such as service-oriented architectures and XML -- are now in place to help crystallize componentization. 

“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 welcome a version of WebSphere with the flexibility to bring in core functions from other applications, thereby enabling him to piece together a solution that could quickly solve a 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 at Exxon-Mobile.

Dennis Byron, an analyst at IDC, said that other application server vendors, namely BEA Systems and Oracle, are moving toward componentizing their offerings.

“Component technology has advanced from all the promises of the late 1990s,” Byron said.

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

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

Vela is due out in the second half of 2004.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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