is gearing up to take WebSphere V5 live, as the company offered a sneak peek this week of some of the upgrades over previous versions.
Chief among these, according to IBM Director of Marketing for WebSphere Scott Hebner, is the addition of an integrated workflow engine geared to tie Web services together. The Armonk, N.Y. firm claims it is the first full Web services workflow tool for the Java Enterprise Edition.
"For the last 5 years or so, the primary usage of app servers on was to take applications and make them available to users over the Internet -- they were about putting the front end on something that already existed," Hebner explained. "The primary purpose of app servers has shifted -- we are now building new business capabilities that are network based. The app server has become more about business integration [making apps interconnect] than dynamic Web sites."
With WebSphere V5's new capabilities, workflow can help manage a number of applications on a network and "compose them or choreograph them," Hebner said. So, in a goods and services business environment, WebSphere V5 can take stock of the status of credit, inventory and shipping in a purchase order and transform them into a Web services structure.
".NET is different in that it links apps together by moving info between them," Hebner said.
Gartner analyst Jess Thompson told internetnews.com the news is an indication of how IBM is assimilating the assets of such workflow integration and business process management purchases as CrossWorlds, MetaMerge and Holosofx.
This, Thompson said, is important because those firms contain certain assets that overlap with features of IBM's Websphere MQSeries integration software. Thompson said he estimates the streamling of those assets may take three to four years.
"IBM is slowly evolving into a workflow architecture," Thompson said. "What this announcement does is show how IBM is rationalizing Websphere's capabilities."
Hebner told internetnews.com that WebSphere V5 supports the Business Process Execution Language standard built by IBM, Microsoftand BEA Systems. To wit, Microsoft and IBM are considered rivals in the Web services space because they propose different visions about how Web services must be exercised (WebSphere versus Microsoft's .NET platform), the two agree on standards.
A recent study from Forrester Research found that IBM and Microsoft are leading the Web services pack -- for now.
"IBM and Microsoft have led the Web services charge, and it shows in their products," wrote Forrester analyst Ted Schadler. "Both vendors clearly demonstrate the breadth and depth. However, neither one has a definitive lock on the market for Web services infrastructure because neither one can ditch its application server in exchange for lightweight Web services execution engine and a message-oriented architecture."
Myriad research firms have been surveying developers and CIOs to determine to what degree they have embraced Web services. A recent study conducted by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), Systinet Corporation and Computerworld Magazine found that 74 percent of the respondents believe Web Services can deliver tangible value to businesses as they are now.
This survey polled 779 corporate and software industry professionals about their knowledge of the Web Services marketplace, its potential to support business needs, and adoption expectations for Web Services products. The survey results will be released to attendees at SIIA's "Web Services Forum: Proving the ROI" held on October 22, at the Union League Club in New York.
UPDATE: IBM releases some details about its forthcoming software platform, slated for a November release. IBM Treads Water; WebSphere Swims