Mills said evolution has made WebSphere bulletproof. He said he is "not particularly concerned with competition" in this space, particularly from open-source offerings.
Yet, Forrester's Rymer said, "I think open source is a problem for IBM and Oracle WebLogic. As our quality survey suggests, the open-source alternatives are 'good enough' options for many shops for a lower cost than the conventional products. JBoss and Sun are benefiting from this market dynamic."
Despite its having been built on top of the open-source Apache Web server, Mills said there are no plans to open-source WebSphere. "Something of this class of software could never be free," he said. In the mainframe world, IBM has delivered software as source code, but that is not likely to occur with WebSphere, Mills said.
Moreover, WebSphere represents a good illustration of how IBM evolved to a much more collaborative development model, Mills said. The initial development team in Raleigh eventually branched out to include developers in Austin, Texas, and Pittsburgh and then a dozen locations, Mills said. Today WebSphere is developed in 80 locations by 6,000 developers, Hayman said.
What's next for the technology?
"Scale, scale, scale and more scale," Mills said. "We're going for more data, more transactions and more performance. We've improved automation, self-diagnostics and enhanced recovery. We built WebSphere with a very weak operating system in mind, so WebSphere had to be very operating systemlike. We built WebSphere with the expectation that it would be running on Windows or Linux or something else, not MVS."
Rymer wrote a report for Forrester saying that application server users can expect more SOA, social computing, RIA (rich Internet applications) and Web 2.0 technology in their application servers. And that is exactly what IBM is delivering.
The next version of IBM's solution, WebSphere Version 7, will ship later in 2008. Hayman said IBM has been building around six basic points to improve WebSphere: service orientation, analytics, active content, business policies, business rules and events.
"Version 7 will enable you to do more work with fewer servers," Hayman said. "You will be able to use fewer machines to achieve more work-the computing equivalent to improving miles per gallon."
In addition, WebSphere 7 will include improved management capabilities and enhanced Web 2.0 support in the form of support for REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs and for the Dojo Toolkit, an AJAX development tool kit.
"What WebSphere has become today is a run-time [for running] all kinds of workloads-from J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition], to REST, to Spring, to Web 2.0, etc.," Hayman said.
Beyond Version 7 of the technology, Hayman said IBM will focus on delivering more support for events, governance and business process management.