IBM claims it will take major steps to bolster its Web services offerings and provide a clear alternative to Microsoft's efforts in this arena.
Through its Global Services division, IBM will launch a service dedicated to helping corporate users build Web services applications, officials said. Big Blue will also announce across-the-board support for open Internet standards in updated versions of its key middleware products.
Big Blue's WebSphere application server and its flagship DB2 database as well as its Tivoli Systems' WebSphere management offerings and Lotus Development's Domino products will all ultimately support Internet standards including SOAP (Simple Object Application Protocol) and UDDI (Universal Discovery, Description, and Integration). In addition, WebSphere will embrace Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and the WSDL (Web Services Description Language).
Industry analysts said these wide-ranging announcements will put IBM in direct competition with archrival Microsoft and its .NET and HailStorm Web services initiatives. IBM will also be drawing closer to rivals offering J2EE infrastructures, including Sun Microsystems/iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions, BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle, analysts said.
Analysts also said corporate users typically choose between .NET or J2EE, primarily based on the platform first and the vendor second. The analysts added that IBM's strategy appears to be more than just product-deep.
"IBM is offering a direct alternative to .NET in terms of a platform for both developing and deploying Web services," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies. "It goes well beyond just products, which are central to IBM's Web services strategy, and IBM is also relying heavily on its Global Services."
Some analysts said they are impressed with IBM's quick delivery of such a wide variety of applications laced with open-standards support but note that many users will need the help of Global Services to fully exploit these updates.
"IBM usually delivers wonderfully elegant but overly complicated products," said Sally Cusack, software analyst at IDC. "If [IBM is] hoping users will create Web services, [users] will need Global Services' help, which could turn out to be expensive," Cusack said.