Software Sense: Middleware Integration a Necessity!

It's a bit ironic that, until recently, middleware tools often didn't work with each other without effort. As a user, you would pick your tools individually – such as application development language, application server, and application services – separately, and then integrate them. Or more accurately, try to. In today's hectic environment, many don't have the time or the skills to do that.

Today's customers want faster, more cost-effective implementations of their middleware tools. That's where I see IBM picking up the ball. The purpose of IBM's WebSphere is to integrate components in the web environment with the rest of a company's business operations, such as inventory, ordering, etc.

Major components of WebSphere include Websphere Studio, Websphere Application Server, WebSphere Performance Pack, MQ Series and WebSphere Commerce Suite. So a new strategy of integration within the family of products makes sense.

As a total package, WebSphere seeks to provide total, end-to-end solutions to customers building e-business applications. A driving success for WebSphere continues to be its open industry-standard architecture, in the form of XML and Java technologies. By spanning existing platforms, from Windows NT through S/390, WebSphere's Application Server Version 3.0.2, and the WebSphere Studio V3.0, help support the most advanced platforms.

How well, however, has IBM communicated its capabilities to its business partners (including ISPs and ASPs) and customers?

In my last column I wrote how the WebSphere Commerce Suite (formerly IBM Net.Commerce) – including its newest edition, WebSphere Marketplace - is finding its niche in the e-marketplace by helping customers transact business (i.e. buy and sell) in real time. Of course, WebSphere Commerce Suite represents just one slice of the pie. Now I see IBM packaging all of its application server technologies as one "integrated e-commerce solution" - a way to help businesses build and manage high-performance web sites, and transition from simple Web publishing to advanced e-business applications.

IBM has chosen a good time to emphasize integration, and to pull the pieces together with one clear message. Competitors, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and others, are coming out with their own integrated offerings at lightning speed.

Also, many of IBM's largest customers are busy building e-business applications around their mainframes. In response, just this month IBM rolled out two new versions of its WebSphere Application Server - the Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition - to fully exploit the S/390 host platform environment. And already, IBM is working with over 50 customers with the two new versions - companies to whom e-business has become mission-critical.

On a separate front, by merging its Component Broker – which at first glance seemed to address similar needs, and which preceded Websphere in the market by about one year – with the Application Server Enterprise Edition, IBM has taken further steps toward more clearly defining its WebSphere capabilities.

Certainly, IBM sits in an enviable position, with many recent industry awards and kudos that help tell its story. Two months ago, for example, the WebSphere Application Server was awarded Network Magazine's Product of the Year - one of the industry's most coveted awards. Other recent awards, citing WebSphere's scalability and adaptability, further help elucidate its business value.

But awards can't, and shouldn't, tell IBM's WebSphere story for it. IBM must continue its own efforts to educate colleagues, competitors, business partners, and customers about the entire WebSphere line of products, and how, together, they offer total e-commerce solutions.

If the WebSphere suite provides answers for customers who seek to manage "total relationships" – and not just isolated transactions – then that's the message IBM should communicate.

Big Blue has what it takes to help customers run sophisticated applications while preserving legacy investments; or in other words, integrate and connect new applications with their existing ones. The desired result, of course, is "e-enabled" operations at every level of a business.

Middleware is changing. And IBM clearly wants to maintain its leadership position in this space, and set the pace for the industry. Can IBM pull it together, and establish its WebSphere presence in the marketplace? TV ads promoting the products' brand name are one step in that direction. I believe it's doable.

Related Editorial:

  • WebSphere's Latest Offering
  • IBM Teams with Macromedia to Promote WebSphere to Developers
  • WebSphere Payment Manager Adds AS/400 Support

    Related Information:

  • IBM WebSphere Page (new window)