IBM to Unveil Web Services Strategy

Unlike .Net, Initiative boasts 'under the covers' support for services by incorporating open standards.

IBM this week will unveil a major software initiative that spreads support for Web services standards throughout its middleware.

Distancing itself from competing Web services strategies such as Microsoft Corp.s .Net, IBM will highlight its "under the covers" support for Web services by incorporating open standards and through its existing transaction and integration products, said officials with the Armonk, N.Y., company.

Among the announcements planned is a new version of WebSphere Application Server, which expands support for Web services-related standards like SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), WSDL (Web Services Description Language) and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration). Slated for availability June 30, WebSphere Application Server 4.0 adds improved caching and faster transaction performance, the ability to integrate with Java Message Service and with third-party applications, and an interface for the UDDI registry.

Tools for building and deploying Web services will be released in beta in July, with general availability slated for September. WebSphere Business Integrator will allow MQSeries, IBMs messaging middleware, to deliver SOAP messages between Web services and manage their interaction.

DB2 Version 7.2, announced last week and set to ship June 8, includes a new DB2/XML (Extensible Markup Language) Extender, which provides Web services with access to data stored in DB2 or any other database and can store SOAP and UDDI data in the stored-procedure builder.

"This is exactly what we need," Espen Sletteng, architect for Storebrand ASA, in Oslo, Norway, said of IBMs addition of Web services support and tighter integration. "We have a lot of different operating systems, partners and suppliers that need to communicate with each other. This will help us a lot."

Storebrand, a life insurance company, uses IBMs WebSphere and SOAP implementation on the server side and Microsoft Corp.s SOAP tool kit on the client side to implement Web services. Sletteng said the company was able to replace a manual process of updating data for tens of thousands of customers employees with an XML-based Web service that pulls data from its customers? payroll systems.

Other announcements will focus on the Lotus Development Corp. Domino and Tivoli Systems Inc. product lines, with added support for Web services standards and tighter integration among the products. IBM also is launching a new practice within IBM Global Services to help customers work with Web services, an area estimated by International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass., to hit $50 billion by 2005.

In terms of integration, IBMs software organizations will keep their brand identities but will no longer be thought of as separate companies.

To that end, Tivoli will create instrumentation for applications such as Domino and WebSphere. Future versions will include the deeper instrumentation for free. That is a dramatic shift from the past, when the Tivoli management framework was open to third-party solutions through APIs and developer programs.