2002: A WebSphere Odyssey for the iSeries?

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While many iSeries owners are evaluating IBM?s WebSphere Application Server (WAS), a surprisingly small number are using it to support their Web sites. However, 2002 will likely be the year when WAS usage?and Web application serving in general?takes off in the iSeries community.

To be honest, WAS has not yet become commonplace on the iSeries because most customers don?t see a need for it. This may seem odd given the fact that many customers use the iSeries as a Web server. Indeed, IBM claims that over 100,000 iSeries systems are acting as Web servers today. However, the majority of these servers do not support transactions that access back-office systems. For most non-transactional Web sites, WAS is unnecessarily complex and expensive.

The situation changes when companies add transaction capabilities to their Web sites, because Web transactions create numerous technical challenges. These include managing the connections between transactions and corporate databases, ensuring the integrity of each transaction, and controlling access to Web applications by multiple users. Few programmers know how to write code to manage such tasks, so middleware products such as WAS manage them for developers.

As a result, companies usually buy Web application servers when they start supporting Web transactions, and this is precisely what many iSeries customers will do in 2002. At Andrews Consulting Group, we have seen a sizable increase in the number of iSeries clients that are adding transaction capabilities to their Web sites and requesting WAS assistance. Many of these companies are being pressured by their biggest customers to offer Web-based access to their order entry, inventory, and fulfillment systems. Others are responding to the e-commerce initiatives of their competitors. Either way, Web transactions among mid-sized companies are picking up speed. This was confirmed by a recent IBM study of the Web strategies of companies with 100 to 999 employees. According to the study, 26 percent of the firms supported Web transactions during the fourth quarter of 2000; by contrast, 40 percent intend to support Web transactions by the fourth quarter of 2002.

Figures such as these are motivating IBM to make the iSeries a stronger WAS platform over the coming year. According to sources within the company, eServer Group and iSeries executives are pursuing the following initiatives for 2002:

  • Increase the number of iSeries applications that include WAS. Today, nearly every software vendor wants its applications to be extensible to the Web. IBM is positioning WAS as the ideal tool to help them do that and is offering substantial support to those who integrate it with their solutions. Already, companies such as J.D. Edwards, Intentia, and JDA Software have made WAS an essential component of their applications. In 2002, IBM intends to add scores of vendors to the list.
  • Sell WAS through iSeries distributor and VAR channels. Distributors, value-added resellers, and systems integrators develop and deploy many iSeries applications. Realizing this, IBM is mounting campaigns to explain to these firms what WebSphere can do for their clients, then train them to use it.
  • Educate the iSeries community. With dozens of IBM products touting the WebSphere moniker, iSeries customers are confused over what WebSphere is and what it offers them. To address this situation, IBM will expand its efforts to educate the iSeries community through the media as well as in formal training venues.

     

Besides these initiatives, IBM is stepping up the pace of WebSphere product introductions on the iSeries. Around the middle of this year, sources within IBM assure me that WAS 5.0?a new version that supports the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.3 standard?will ship for the iSeries. At the same time, IBM?s Software Group will release an upgrade to WebSphere Development Studio for iSeries that supports the new WAS version. This tool suite includes VisualAge for Java, WebSphere Studio, and the new WebFacing Tool that converts DDS source code to Web interfaces.

There is also a strong likelihood that WAS 5.0 will provide some price relief to owners of WAS 3.5 Standard Edition who must spend $8,000 to $12,000 per CPU to upgrade to WAS 4.0. According to my sources, IBM could offer a single-server version of WAS 5.0 that costs considerably less than WAS 4.0. This could encourage many existing WAS customers to jump directly to WAS 5.0 before IBM discontinues WAS 3.5 support on December 31, 2002.

With Web transactions growing on the iSeries and IBM stepping up its WebSphere efforts, chances are good that you?ll be considering WAS and related products in 2002. In future issues, we?ll help you get a better understanding of WebSphere and IBM?s plans for the product family.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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