IBM unveiled on Wednesday new versions of its WebSphere software products and toolkits that offer developers a wider range of open standards for building complex Web sites and services on IBM's platform.
The WebSphere Application Server Version 4 and the WebSphere Voice Server Version 1.5, both to be released next month, come just one year after IBM first launched the WebSphere initiative, a set of Java-based tools that allow customers to create and manage Web sites and build Web-based software and services.
The latest release is IBM's most recent effort to get up to speed with its top competitors, including BEA Systems, Microsoft and Oracle. IBM's WebSphere application server is number two in the market behind BEA's WebLogic application server software, according to analysts.
With the new release, IBM is promoting WebSphere's integration features, which make it easier for corporate users to link WebSphere to applications and hardware products from other vendors. It is also IBM's first line of application server products to be built on the same server code base, the company said.
"Integration has always been a very strong part of what we're doing," said Aimee Munsell, a manager with IBM's application server division. "But what we're seeing is that there's much more integration that needs to be done beyond the application server. We see a lot of the functionality moving into the base of the application server rather than from other products that build on top of it."
The new application server is IBM's first server software product to include support for the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) platform. It also supports a variety of open standards such as XML, UDDI (Universal Description Discovery and Integration), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and EJB (enterprise JavaBeans), an architecture for building reusable applications deployed from a server to an entire network.
IBM also unveiled on Wednesday tools for developers building on the WebSphere platform, including WebSphere Studio and VisualAge for Java for Version 4 of the Application Server. Included for developers is a free version of WebSphere Studio Workbench, a development toolkit that enables independent software vendors (ISV) to build applications for WebSphere software. Nine ISVs are supporting the Workbench upon its launch.
IBM also said on Wednesday it will sell bundled software packages that customers can purchase to set up a Web site and run right out of the box.
The company is offering three different kits; each includes the necessary parts to build complex Web sites for electronic commerce, business-to-business transactions, or make the applications that run on the WebSphere platform available on wireless computers and handheld devices, according to IBM. The three basic packages are the WebSphere Business Integrator Version 2.1, WebSphere User Experience Version 1.1 and WebSphere Everyplace Access Version 1.1.
"They include all the middleware that you need to get started," Munsell said. Each of the products will continue to be sold individually, she said. However, the packaged deals are aimed at small businesses looking to launch a Web site from scratch. Customers can also upgrade from the basic package to run additional applications or scale for Web sites serving a greater volume of visitors.
WebSphere Studio and the Workbench toolkit are available for Windows and Linux operating systems, and will be ready for beta testing in July. VisualAge for Java Version 4 will cost $US149 for the professional edition and $2,999 for the enterprise edition. WebSphere Studio Version 4 is priced at $US599 for the professional edition and $1,999 for the advanced edition.
The WebSphere Application Server Version 4 will cost $US8,000 for single server use and $12,000 for multiple servers and will begin shipping on June 30.