New Version of WebSphere Delivers Tools to the Mainframe

At its developerWorks Live! conference in San Francisco, IBM Corp. introduced version 5 of its WebSphere application server.

At its developerWorks Live! conference in San Francisco, IBM Corp. introduced version 5 of its WebSphere application server. The server includes tools for easily exposing mainframe applications and information as Web services.

IBM is promoting the new concept of "enterprise modernization"—updating time-tested systems and applications for the cutting edge of enterprise computing. Because so many enterprises have core applications running on classic platforms such as the mainframe, many businesses will need to open up these systems to new technologies before enterprises will begin to deploy Web services and other new technologies.

A core component of the enterprise-modernization strategy is the Workflow Manager incorporated into the latest version of WebSphere. Workflow Manager is a graphical tool for setting up processes between a legacy application, WebSphere, and, perhaps, a Web service.

"It provides a number of extensions into z/OS to configure, build and deploy sophisticated application workflows into legacy applications," says Stefan Van Overtveldt, director of technical marketing, IBM WebSphere. Van Overtveldt says the tool creates interfaces for CICS transactions that allow WebSphere to run an application, then take the data and move it back out to users, a Web page or a Web service.

While this process may have taken significant developer effort in the past, the graphical tool enables point-and-click creation of workflows. Some developer tools can be used by business analysts, but Overtveldt says users of Workflow Manager still need a high degree of familiarity with CICS, IMS and other aspects of the mainframe in order to use the tool.

WebSphere Version 5 is also the first version of the application server to truly support Web services. While there was limited functionality in version 4.1, this is the first version to be built around Web services.

One new Web service feature IBM is particularly fond of talking about is its ability to create UDDI registries for internal deployment. The application server can create a list of all the Web services within an organization so developers can harness them.

Van Overtveldt says Web services inside the firewall will be the point of entry for most enterprises. "The vast majority of Web service implementations we've seen are internal or in VPN-style configurations," he says. Most enterprises are waiting for more solid security standards before they're willing to open the applications to the general Internet.

Finally, the new WebSphere version offers greater flexibility in deployment. Users can select which packages they want to install on their system and only pay for what they use. If more functionality is needed, they can pay for the package and install it.