IBM AlphaWorks Tests Hosted Apps

alphaWorks Deep Thunder

Deep Thunder is one of three new applications launched in IBM's debut of alphaWorks Services, the site's expansion into hosted software prototypes. Previously, alphaWorks supported only traditional applications, to be downloaded and run on users' machines. AlphaWorks Services enables visitors to test hosted applications like Deep Thunder without downloading software.

IBM cast alphaWorks' dive into the software-as-a-service field as a sign that the decade-old site is still tracking the software industry's cutting edge.

AlphaWorks' official birthday is either in August or October 1996, depending on which initiative you count as the Web site's first version. IBM decided to split the difference and celebrate in September, said Chris Spencer, an emerging technology strategist at IBM.

"It was a Web site put together by interns," Spencer said. "It's become a 10-year experiment that's been mostly successful."

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AlphaWorks is IBM's public showcase for technology prototypes, a place for interested developers to try emerging software and offer IBM feedback. The process and community involvement is similar to that fostered around open-source software projects and, indeed, about 30 AlphaWorks projects have eventually been released under open-source licenses. Roughly 160,000 unique visitors stop by AlphaWorks each month, Spencer said.

AlphaWorks' most popular projects include Robocode, an educational game to help players learn to code, and a Java XML parser that became an Apache-supported industry standard. Other AlphaWorks projects have "graduated" to foundational roles in IBM's technology portfolio.

"Way back in the day, the idea came up, 'Could we have this engine that we could put in applications and serve them out?' " Spencer said. "The community said, 'It would be a good idea if you did this.' So we put out the Servlet Express engine. It became the predecessor to the WebSphere Application Server."