IBM Pushes Alternative to .Net

Eclipse-based developer tools tie into WebSphere to link disparate platforms.

While much of the talk in the Web services industry has centered on Microsoft Corp.s .Net, IBM is pushing to position itself as the main alternative.

At its Software Symposium in Vienna, Austria, this week, IBM will roll out a series of enhanced developer tools that tie functions of the companys middleware products into its WebSphere Studio. The integration will provide a single, portallike environment for developing, testing and debugging, IBM officials said. The tools will be based on IBMs Eclipse open-source development platform and span the companys software portfolio, including its Domino, DB2 and Tivoli environments.

A Domino plug-in will enable developers to create blended Domino and WebSphere applications, while a DB2 Everyplace plug-in will allow users to build DB2-based applications for mobile devices. A Tivoli plug-in will enable developers to monitor applications running on Windows, Unix, Linux and IBMs eServer iSeries. Along with the plug-ins, IBM next month will give a technology preview of WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer, designed to help developers in these environments move to Java.

"Weve ... covered all the different tools that are specific to developer communities that build in those different middleware offerings," said Scott Hebner, IBM director of product development for WebSphere, in Armonk, N.Y. "Because theyre all based on Eclipse, they can all be integrated in a portallike fashion within WebSphere Studio."

Tools from the other 175 vendors that are part of Eclipse will also be able to be integrated, reducing developer worries about incompatibility.

IBM will unveil integration capabilities tied to WebSphere, particularly by including technology acquired from CrossWorlds Inc., an enterprise application integration software provider that IBM bought earlier this year, said Don OToole, director of solutions and strategy programs in IBMs Software Group, also in Armonk. IBM will also announce tighter support for its MQSeries integration and the use of Web services standards for integration.

In addition, the company is expected to introduce WebSphere-based, industry- specific integration plans for such markets as automotive, electronics, insurance, retail distribution and telecommunications. IBM will also unveil WebSphere Business Connection to simplify business-to-business integration by providing pre-built integration capabilities for Web services and industry-standard electronic data interchange connectivity options.

Vincent Maciejewski, chief technology officer of Spidertop Software Inc., a Toronto-based Java software maker, lauded IBMs efforts.

"Making it easy to build Web services requires a high level of integration between the development environment and the servers," Maciejewski said. "Tight integration between WebSphere Studio and WebSphere is as important as it is between [Microsofts] Visual Studio and Microsoft servers. I think IBM is on the right track with Eclipse."

But Mike Gilpin, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., said IBM still has work to do. "IBM has not yet built all the new things in the Eclipse framework that they ultimately intend to deliver, nor have all the partners committed to Eclipse yet delivered their plug-ins," Gilpin said.

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