On October 6, 2004, IBM announced that Version 6 of its WebSphere Application Server (WAS) will ship soon. This new J2EE WAS is designed to protect applications from server downtime and boost enterprise efforts to build a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).
WebSphere, as an IBM brand, consists of many pieces of middleware and individual application products. The WAS is the piece of the puzzle that integrates these various offerings and delivers them across the Internet. It's the software engine that serves the applications to the user.
Flavors of WAS
IBM sells the WAS in a number of different flavors, based upon the requirements of the customers and the hosting operating system. These include WebSphere Application Server - Express, which is a scaled-down version for the small and medium business customer, and the WebSphere Application Server for z/OS, which is optimized for the zSeries computers. As a part of its announcement, IBM said that WAS - Express V6 is also being finalized for release.
Features of WAS V6
One of the touted features of the WAS V6 is its ability to automatically detect network problems and network power failures and save the associated business transactions that are in process. It can then immediately redirect that data to a designated failover server as needed. That failover server could be at the same data center or, in a more serious power failure or disaster, at a completely different location. This is an increasingly important requirement for the technology of Web application serving as the nature of the Internet becomes more complex.
WAS V6 is also designed to take advantage of a number of IBM's autonomic computing advancements. As a result, it can better self-manage IT infrastructures, enabling self-configuration, healing, and optimization. IBM says that by taking care of many of the increasingly complex management requirements of IT systems, this autonomic computing model allows companies to better focus their resources on business matters.
A new feature of the WAS V6 is a wizards-based, drag-and-drop environment that automates the most common and tedious steps of application development and deployment. IBM says that the new version also provides better scaling so that more concurrent users can access any application being served by the WAS.
New Standards Supported
WAS V6 supports the latest in Web services security standards: WS-Security authenticates communications, and WS-Transactions ensures that Web services transactions are consistently delivered. Additionally, V6 supports the WS-I Basic Profile 1.1 for development of interoperable Web services that support the integration of multiple Web services solutions.
Additionally, because WAS V6 is a cross-platform Web application server that runs on 30 operating system platforms, it will be useable on more platforms than any other in the industry.
Driving Down Cost with SOAs
SOAs are collections of interconnected business functions, processes, and services that can be mixed and matched on the fly--through reusable, industry-standard software components rather than "silo-ed," manually coded ones. This architected "widget" approach enables businesses to work faster and more efficiently and to integrate their applications and data with those of their customers, partners, and suppliers.
IBM says that WAS V6 is better designed to more easily integrate with customers' existing systems, regardless of the underlying technology. It allows customers to grow from a single Web service to an enterprise-wide SOA deployment.
A key architectural component of any SOA is an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), which provides the connection infrastructure for business transactions to flow from application to application in an SOA. According to IBM, WAS V6 significantly simplifies the task of connecting WebSphere applications to an ESB. The release features new messaging capability that performs faster than previous versions and integrates seamlessly with the existing IT infrastructure.
Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press Online, LP.