WebSphere vs. Domino

With all the different technologies available for Internet development, it may be a little confusing and difficult to choose the right one. You have many options when it comes to the available servers. The decision as to which tool you choose greatly depends on your audience. What if it’s your own employees that you need to address, or maybe it’s customers that you need to reach out to, or is it another business that you need to communicate with? Whatever you choose, you must ensure that the environment is capable of addressing all of your needs.

One of the many application servers available to use as a basis for your Web solution is IBM’s WebSphere, a Java-based plug-in that aids in the processing of Java bytecode on the AS/400. WebSphere works together with your HTTP server to process your Java applications. The HTTP server still processes the transfer of data to and from the client, but when executing a Java component, WebSphere takes over by processing the information and returning the results to the HTTP server to send to the client.

The HTTP server supplied with OS/400 is capable of Java processing, but is limited to only processing Java servlets. WebSphere opens your AS/400 to a whole new world—JavaBeans and Enterprise JavaBeans can create reusable components that can access your AS/400 resources. These components can be used in multiple places and can be used in many different situations. From the Internet to your intranet site, JavaBeans can be used everywhere.

Java Server Pages (JSP) contain embedded Java code that is interpreted at run-time. JSPs create HTML pages based on input from the user. This technology is similar to Microsoft’s ASP (Active Server Pages), which uses a Visual Basic-like scripting language instead of Java. These technologies expand the capabilities of your AS/400 as a Java application server and provide a reliable interface to your system.

Another solution may be to use Domino. There’s no simple explanation of what Domino is or what it can do for your organization. First, Domino is an e-mail server capable of providing extremely reliable and fast e-mail service throughout your organization or to the Internet. Domino supports all major e-mail protocols and is currently in the process of supporting Microsoft’s Outlook client.

Many other functions for Domino can leap from the creative minds within your organization. You can implement workflow applications to automate and manage paperbound business processes such as purchase order approvals, new hire processing or Web publishing. Domino Enterprise Connection Services (DECS) provides high performance, real-time access to a variety of external environments, using the productivity of declarative interfaces (no code required!).

These two application servers are very different environments, as they’ve been designed for two different purposes. WebSphere is intended for transaction-intensive applications that access the AS/400 and its resources using Java as the development environment. It provides better performance for Java-based processing and it uses Sun’s Java Toolkit.

WebSphere should be used if you’re developing applications that bridge from your organization to the outside world. It allows you to create unique applications that tie into your AS/400 information and resources. With JavaBeans and servlets, transactional components can be written and used in many instances. They can be used to develop either Internet- or intranet-based applications that can extended to your customers or other businesses. These tend to be unique and unavailable as canned, off-the-shelf products. But remember, using WebSphere to build applications may require extensive development. And with this, you may find that another environment, such as Domino may already have the functionality built in.

Domino should be used to extend the use of your current applications. Domino can extend these applications to either the Web or to an internal intranet site so that your staff can access your system from a simple Internet connection. Domino comes optimized for applications that extend your business to your own staff and to other businesses. This is not to say you cannot develop applications that address the needs of your customers. Those types of operations should be left for more transaction sensitive environments such as WebSphere.

Which one of these powerful tools is the best? Neither! They both provide answers to specific technological problems that need to be addressed. Choosing the wrong tool will not put you into a hole. You’ll still get your return on investment, but it may make it difficult to produce your solution in a timely and cost-effective fashion. It’s up to you to identify your problem so that you can provide the best solution and make the most of those investments.

Mark Buchner is president of Astech Solutions Inc. (Aurora, Ontario). mbuchner@astech.com

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