IBM Stakes Out New Position in the Middle
IBM Corp. (www.ibm.com
) rolled out a major update to MQSeries Integrator, a middleware product for exchanging messages across more than 35 operating environments, including Windows NT/2000.
Windows NT, in fact, is the initial platform for Integrator version 2, which serves as an enterprise application integration (EAI) development tool for MQSeries environments.
The first MQSeries Integrator replaced an earlier point-to-point relationship between MQSeries' message queue and multiplatform message brokers with a hub-like architecture for faster message routing and distribution. With the new version, IBM hopes to capture a leading share of the $2.5 billion EAI marketplace.
Enhancements to the new version include an architecture that revolves around processor nodes, a new graphical tools environment, and the addition of XML support to the transformation engine.
Both versions of MQSeries Integrator also include a rules-based transformation engine based on technology from New Era of Networks Inc.(NEON, www.neonsoft.com). The engine translates data between disparate environments, such as mainframe-based CICS transaction processing systems and SAP's R/3 ERP systems.
Integrator 2 is the "gorilla" of e-business integration, says Mike Donaldson, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at NEON. "The gorilla is emerging in this marketplace. Integration is a big problem. No single customer can produce a single [solution]," Donaldson contends.
"IBM and NEON have both made major investments in Integrator," notes Sue Eustis of WinterGreen Research Inc. (www.wintergreenresearch.com). This investment contrasts with Microsoft's decision to license the rights for developing, marketing, and selling non-Windows versions of its MSMQ messaging middleware to another company, Level 8 Systems Inc. (www.level8.com).
Level 8 was the original developer of Microsoft's MSMQ/MQSeries bridge product.
An overriding design goal for Integrator version 2 is greater simplicity. "We want to empower end users who are non-programmers," says Rob Lamb, director of product marketing and business integration at IBM. "The screen looks like PowerPoint. You can drag-and-drop boxes," he explained. The graphical interface can even be used by nontechnical users, he adds. The interface permits graphical depiction of processor nodes and the connections between them. By pointing and clicking, users can manipulate and route messages, combine them with information in enterprise databases, store them for auditing and analysis, and distribute the data to subscribing applications.
This simplicity is a big hit among some early adopters. "The lack of having to write code is very important to us," remarks Jon Calladine, systems interconnect consultant, at British Telecom (BT, www.bt.com). BT, one of about 20 version 2 beta testers, used MQSeries Integrator with MQSeries to track changes in customer information without the additional overhead caused by an earlier approach involving use of synchronous technology to poll a CICS TP system and DB2 databases. "Polling introduces problems because front ends are voracious in their appetites," Calladine asserts.
BT is now running about 35 to 40 MQSeries applications.
"Whenever an order or other event changes at the back end, we can find out without having to poll," Calladine adds. "Time-to-market is the big thing for us and all telcos."
Aside from the simplified user interface, Calladine points to tighter integration with MQSeries and improved audit capabilities in version 2.
MQSeries Integrator version 2 will also provide the integration functionality for IBM's new WebSphere B2B Integrator software. It will connect users of IBM's WebSphere application server to supply chain partners.
MQSeries Integrator version 2 is available on Windows NT. Versions for Unix environments such as Sun Solaris and IBM AIX are slated for later this year. IBM will also add support for Windows 2000 and Linux.