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IBM Focuses Middleware Spotlight on iSeries

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In recent weeks, IBM has been preparing its eServer iSeries to run more of the company’s WebSphere middleware. However, since the new middleware will run on the AIX, Linux, and Windows operating systems that the iSeries hosts, many OS/400 loyalists are not yet aware of the products. The iSeries’ burgeoning middleware capabilities are part of an IBM campaign to make the server a consolidation platform for application infrastructure workloads.

IBM kicked off its latest round of middleware announcements on October 25 when it unveiled WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE). Unlike previous editions of WebSphere Application Server, WAS CE is an open source product that customers can download and use at no cost on Intel processor-based servers with up to four CPUs. The product was originally the brainchild of Gluecode Software, a company that took the J2EE-certified Apache Geronimo application server and extended it with additional system services and drivers. When IBM bought Gluecode earlier this year, it inherited the open-source product.

While WAS CE does not run on OS/400, it is supported by most of the iSeries’ Integrated xSeries features when running Linux or Windows Server 2003. The Integrated xSeries must have a mininum of 128MB of memory, though 256MB or more is preferred. While nobody at IBM has said this to me, my hunch is that the company will eventually position WAS CE as its preferred open source application server for the iSeries. As such, iSeries customers that are currently using the Apache Tomcat application server should take a good look at WAS CE, as they may want to migrate to it in the near future.

Last Tuesday, IBM dropped more middleware onto the iSeries when it announced WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and WebSphere Process Server, both of which are at the V6.0.1 release level. WebSphere ESB enables heterogeneous applications and databases to interact using Web-based protocols. The protocols include Java Message Service (JMS), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), and Java Connector Architecture (JCA). WebSphere ESB is a solid product for integrating applications whose interfaces comply with such specifications. It provides a consistent platform for designing, deploying, and managing integrations instead of creating hundreds of point-to-point connections that have to be managed individually.

While WebSphere Process Server includes WebSphere ESB, it brings added functionality to the product. These functions include a Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) engine for orchestrating how Web services work together, a facility for describing business rules, and support for including human tasks in a workflow. Both WebSphere ESB and WebSphere Process Server ship with WebSphere Integration Developer, a tool that enables users to integrate applications and design workflows with minimal programming skills.

The electronic versions of both WebSphere ESB and WebSphere Process Server will become available on December 29, with media delivery taking place on January 27 of next year. Both products run on iSeries logical partitions under AIX 5.2 or 5.3, Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS 3.0, or SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.0. They can also run on Windows 2000 and 2003 servers (including the Integrated xSeries) as well as HP-UX, Solaris, and Linux on zSeries mainframes.

Favored by Design

As OS/400 diehards study the latest announcements, they may feel that IBM has snubbed them by not supporting their operating system of choice. However, IBM has good reasons to roll out these products on operating environments other than OS/400. In the case of WAS CE, the reason is simply that Gluecode Software and the Apache Software Foundation only wrote their code for Intel servers. Besides, every new iSeries now comes packaged with WAS Standard or Express Edition, so there is little reason for IBM to offer another WAS version on OS/400.

As for WebSphere ESB and Process Server, it would be wonderful if these two products ran on OS/400. To be honest, though, they probably would not attract many users. That is because nearly all companies and software vendors run such middleware on Unix, Linux, and Windows servers. Indeed, over the last several years, many companies have created server farms that run such Web-based middleware on an exclusive basis. In many cases, these farms have become complicated nightmares that consume significant management overhead.

That is where the iSeries could provide a solution. With its ability to host hundreds of load-balanced Unix and Linux partitions and integrated Windows servers, the iSeries could become a cost-effective platform for consolidating application infrastructure servers. What it needs is support for the middleware products that are running on those servers. Moreover, it needs that support on operating systems that middleware administrators know and understand: Unix, Linux, and Windows. These operating environments are where the real opportunity lies.

Knowing this, the iSeries Division intends to make infrastructure consolidation from Unix, Linux, and Windows servers one of its four top sales plays during 2006. When IBM discusses this play with its sales teams and Business Partners, you can bet that the latest middleware announcements will play a role in the campaign.

In short, by positioning the iSeries as a consolidation point for application infrastructure workloads, IBM is giving the server a shot at capturing one of the fastest growing workload segments on the market today. Just as importantly, Big Blue is giving Unix, Linux, and Windows software vendors one more reason to port their applications to the iSeries. While OS/400 purists may think that IBM’s actions do nothing for their operating environment of choice, they should be glad about what the company is doing. After all, if IBM succeeds in attracting new applications and talent to the iSeries, it will make the company more willing to keep investing in the server. That is good news for all iSeries users no matter what operating system they favor.

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..

LEE KROON
Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.
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