While IBMs WebSphere MQ is quite possibly the ultimate under-the-hood application, companies interested in the newest version will find that almost all the changes are upfront. Administration complexity in Version 6.0 of WebSphere MQ, which was released in June, has been reduced through a unified administration and development interface. During tests, this helped us manage multiple queues remotely and reliably deliver messages and Web services.The core under-the-hood capabilities in WebSphere MQ have seen less change, but, given how well-established IBMs messaging technologies are, this isnt necessarily a bad thing. Improvements include increased support for SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), a better implementation of secure transactions through SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and support for IPv6. Click here to read Jim Rapozas review of Systinet Server for WebSphere MQ. As one would expect, WebSphere MQ 6.0 is designed to tightly integrate with other IBM servers, including the WebSphere application server, but the product works with servers from other vendors as well. WebSphere MQ 6.0 also has excellent platform support, running on most Linux, Unix and Windows server systems. IBMs product has benefited from years of experience in message queuing, but WebSphere MQ still lags somewhat behind competitors when it comes to newer trends such as SOA (service-oriented architecture) and ESB (enterprise service bus). WebSphere MQ can be easily used as the basis of an ESB or SOA, but it doesnt provide the same level of tools that competing products, such as Sonic Software Corp.s SonicMQ, do. Pricing for WebSphere MQ 6.0 starts at $6,410 per processor, which compares favorably with competing commercial message queue systems. A 90-day free trial is also available. After setting up WebSphere MQ 6.0, administrators will immediately notice the revamped Explorer interface, which is based on the open-source Eclipse development environment. Using this interface, which runs on Linux or Windows, we could carry out a wide variety of system and queue configurations and easily manage all connections, messages and logs. Also, with the SSL-based remote capabilities available from within this interface, we could easily manage clusters of servers as well as WebSphere MQ servers installed on less accessible mainframe systems. Another new capability provided in this interface is an integrated publish/subscribe feature. From the new broker section of the Explorer interface, we could define information needed to enable decoupled data sharing for our applications and messages. An interesting if somewhat strange addition in WebSphere MQ is the File Transfer utility. This application is pretty much what its name impliesa tool that lets users share files using the WebSphere MQ server infrastructure, almost like a more reliable form of FTP or e-mail. The feature was easy to use and could prove useful, but it did seem somewhat out of place in a message queue system. We were impressed with the amount of assistance that IBM provides to users who need to learn the ropes. Detailed tutorials and a new Quick Tour feature do a good job of covering the basics and, along with the products strong documentation, should make the learning curve short. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.