IBM Updates E-Commerce Offerings

Anxious to ride the cresting e-business wave, IBM Corp. revamped its application server software to reflect the company’s emphasis on providing an infrastructure for next-generation e-commerce applications. IBM’s update includes folding transaction server technologies into a new release of its WebSphere Web application server environment, and positions the resulting product as a tool to enable exploitation of the e-commerce market.

WebSphere 1.1 integrates the Web server, transaction processing, Web commerce and distributed component technologies of IBM's Application Server, TXSeries, Net.Commerce and Component Broker products under one common hood. In addition, WebSphere leverages the Enterprise JavaBeans distributed component architecture specification, as well as the Java programming language.

IBM maintains that WebSphere can complement existing IBM application and server technologies such as the Domino messaging, groupware and Web server platform from Lotus Development Corp., as well as DB2 Universal Database and CICS transaction processing software.

The WebSphere family is composed of the WebSphere Application Servers, the WebSphere Performance Pack and WebSphere Studio 1.0. The WebSphere Application Servers provide an infrastructure for developing and implementing networked applications, while the WebSphere Performance Pack provides facilities management software for the maintenance of e-commerce Web sites. WebSphere Studio offers an integrated set of Web development tools for the WebSphere environment.

IBM makes WebSphere Application Servers available in Standard, Advanced and Enterprise editions, with all three WebSphere versions providing an standards-based Web-server deployment infrastructure that functions on a number of platforms, including AIX, OS/400, OS/390, OS/2 Warp Server, Windows NT and Solaris.

IBM has also broken new ground by bundling Apache Web server software with WebSphere. While IBM can’t sell the Apache code, by including it with WebSphere, the software giant can offer support services to customers using a known configuration of Apache. IBM offers Apache software for AIX, Windows NT and Sun Solaris platforms. WebSphere without Apache support is available for OS/400 and OS/390.

According to Tim Sloane, director of messaging applications research at Boston-based consultancy Aberdeen Group, IBM’s announcement of WebSphere to some extent opens up the proprietary nature of many Internet commerce solutions. "When IBM announced WebSphere Performance Pack and Application Server, it demonstrated its full commitment to delivering a high-end application server based on Java and open standards," Sloan contends. "WebSphere instantly challenged the proprietary approaches all the competitors currently ship…[and] IBM has made it easy and safe for MIS organizations to deliver transaction-based data to the Web."