It's the transactions, stupid. That variation on the Bill Clinton presidential campaign theme pretty much sums up what's at stake as every major vendor in the industry vies for a piece of digital economy that will take us into the next century.
IBM is set to get a leg-up on its rivals by enabling most of its products to run Enterprise JavaBeans. For IBM, this is one of the most important pieces of software development to come its way in a very long time. It means IBM finally has some affordable, comparatively easy-to-implement middleware that can link all of its platforms.
In the past, IBM has had a variety of middleware approaches, but each one cost a fortune and its implementation required 10 people in lab coats.
Now the company has the crucial piece of software it needs to tie every platform on the market into its MQSeries transaction processing architecture. This means IBM customers are pretty much guaranteed a scalable architecture for Internet commerce applications that can grow with them at a moment's notice, as opposed to waiting for a single vendor. such as Microsoft, to deliver its Microsoft Transaction Server offering on a scalable version of Windows NT -- possibly some time in 1999.
As with most good things that happen at IBM, this latest project is a positive accident. Two years ago, IBM set out to unify its platforms under an object-oriented architecture called the San Francisco project. Along the way it discovered Java. The marriage of these two efforts is about to yield great things for a company that could never get out of the way of its own platforms.
What the future holds
Today IBM, along with companies such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Netscape and Sun, is playing for all the marbles in the nascent digital economy infrastructure. The company that actually owns the transactions in this new economy is going to dominate this industry for years to come.
So the question is, will IBM be up to that task, or are we just looking at a slightly hipper version of the same old gang that couldn't shoot straight?