IBM gears products for Web services

SAN FRANCISCO — IBM Corp. is telling 4,000 developers this week its WebSphere infrastructure software could cut in half the 40 per cent of IT budgets analysts say goes towards integrating applications, operating systems, databases and


Development partners gathered at Big Blue’s annual DeveloperWorks Live conference to learn about the bells and whistles of the latest version of WebSphere application server version 5. IBM is pitching the product as a way to help companies better integrate their disparate array of applications and systems and allow them to take better advantage of e-business opportunities.

“”Integrating applications, processes and systems is extremely labour-intensive,”” said John Swainson, IBM’s general manager of application and integration middleware. “”We can displace the labour costs using this technology.””

A survey released by Morgan Stanley, the New York-based financial services giant, says more than one-third of the CIOs it polled indicated that integration is their top strategic IT project this year.

From an enterprise perspective, companies want to integrate at all levels: applications, processes, Web sites, intranets, databases and so on. The continuum of integration begins with operating environments, but moves into many areas including storage. IBM execs said better integrated storage systems would allow companies to access data from anywhere immediately, without moving it around. Another step on the integration ladder is pulling together all the security pieces across applications to simplify the management of access rights.

The idea behind better integration is to leverage a company’s existing IT investments, not to begin again from Ground Zero the process of building a flexible infrastructure, IBM officials said.

“”It’s not about what you’re purchasing today; it’s what you purchased 10 or 15 years ago that still needs to work for you today,”” said Steve Mills, IBM’s senior vice-president of software. “”Business value is delivered by connecting all the various layers of an enterprise — customer relationship management, enterprise resource management, supply chain management — in an end-to-end value chain flow,”” Mills said.

IBM officials quickly incorporated the latest figures from industry research firm Gartner Dataquest into their PowerPoint presentations that show IBM inching ahead of Oracle with 34.6 per cent market share in the overall database market, while Oracle slipped into second place with about 32 per cent share.

“”Our DB2 business grew 12 per cent last year on mainframes, 15 per cent in Windows environments,”” said Janet Perna, IBM’s general manager of Data Management Solutions. “”Since 1997, we’ve picked up 20 points of share in the Unix business.””

Oracle disputed the analyst’s findings. In a statement released on Wednesday by Jeff Henley, the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company’s chief financial officer, Oracle challenged IBM and Microsoft to provide the industry analyst firms with audited numbers. Though he never mentioned Enron Corp. specifically, Henley suggested that marketshare data face the same kind of scrutiny that financial statements have come under.

The latest release of WebSphere, which will be released in industry-specific versions, takes advantage of the new interoperability features that are part of J2EE 1.3, the most recent standard for server-based Java business applications. It will also be IBM’s first attempt to provide a full Web services infrastructure ready for broad enterprise support.

Other products announced include WebSphere MQ Event Broker, a product that enables companies to publish information to specific subscribers according to their preferences; WebSphere Business Integration 4.1, a business process integration tool that allows customers to carry out activities — regardless of the system — across business applications such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management; WebSphere enterprise modernization, a tool that is said to help customers reuse existing software in a growing e-business rather than write new Web applications.

The conference continues until May 10.

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