Raising the Services Stakes

Banking on increased demand for Web services, IBM unveils tool kit, hosting technology, gateway.

IBM is rolling out new tools designed to help developers and service providers create, host and manage Web services. The tools include IBMs Web Services Toolkit 3.0, Web Services Hosting Technology and Web Services Gateway, all of which are available for free download at www.alphaworks.ibm.com.

Like other vendors—including Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp.—in the growing and competitive Web services arena, IBM is trying to piece together a complete Web services suite that will be available when the market catches fire.

One user believes the Armonk, N.Y., company is pulling away from the pack with offerings such as those rolled out last week. Officials with InterKeel Inc., which offers a platform for building Web services, said they have been pleased with IBMs past offerings and expect to take advantage of the newest ones. InterKeels principal clients are telecommunication and financial services companies. Insurance companies seem to be the ones doing the most work with Web services these days, officials said.

InterKeel, of Palo Alto, Calif., went for IBMs Web services products because IBM "has a mature solution," said Rajesh Raman, vice president of product development and engineering. Other vendors products "are not there yet and dont deliver the robust features" the company was looking for. The InterKeel team also liked the security features—the Web Services Gateway—provided in the new version, which the team said is important to customers.

IBM officials said the tool kit, or WSTK 3.0, consolidates various Web services-related technologies. The functions of the WSTK are based on specifications such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), WSDL (Web Services Description Language), WS-Inspection and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) and run on Linux and Windows operating systems.

New features and functions in WSTK 3.0 include common utility services, a connector for LotusScript applications to Web services, a WSDL document utility, enhanced Apache support and new UDDI for Java.

SoapConnect for LotusScript enables LotusScript applications in Lotus Domino and Notes to integrate with Web services. The WSDLdoc utility parses WSDL documents and delivers HTML documentation describing the Web services. WSTK 3.0 also supports the third generation of The Apache Software Foundation open-source SOAP implementation and IBMs UDDI for Java Version 2 preview.

IBMs Web Services Hosting Technology is a set of management tools that supports Web services, including the provisioning and metering of Web services without requiring code changes, and enables service providers to develop an integrated billing model.

The Web Services Gateway provides enhanced security for Web services across firewalls, company officials said.

"IBM is widely and justifiably recognized as a leader in pushing Web services technology forward. And this is a necessary, inevitable but positive next step. Its a positive move to enhance the infrastructure thats necessary to support revenue-oriented Web services strategies," said David Schatsky, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix Inc., in New York.

Schatsky said IBM is a bit ahead of market demand, "which is appropriate because a lot of companies are scratching their head trying to think of how they can drive new revenue through a Web services strategy. And they certainly will have a hard time doing it without these infrastructure elements available to them."