IBM Readying New WebSphere Software For Web Services Hosting

Project Allegro product available next year

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IBM is readying new software to provide a Java- and XML-based infrastructure for the hosting of Web services, an IBM executive told CRN Wednesday.

The product, currently in development under Project Allegro, will be branded under the WebSphere software line and combine functionalities from WebSphere application server, portal and commerce products, as well as Tivoli security and systems management software, said Bob Sutor, IBM's director of e-business standards strategy.

The new product is built on a host of Web services standards such as WSDL and SOAP and will rely heavily on the WS-Security standard, for which IBM recently announced support in its Tivoli and WebSphere products, Sutor said.

IBM will make a reference implementation of the product available on its developerWorks site by the end of the year, with the full product available sometime next year, Sutor said. IBM has not decided on the name or pricing of the product, he added.

Sutor used the example of a human resources outsourcing function to illustrate what the Project Allegro product will do.

Sutor said that if a company has a Web-based application it wants to offer as a Web service--e.g., the ability to access salary history and other human resources functions online--there are contract, billing functions and user registration functions to consider.

"The point is that somehow when you are deploying your Web service--[such as getting my salary history--there is a lot of extra stuff that you have to do in and around that Web service that is particular to that Web service," Sutor said.

The new WebSphere product uses Web services standards to define those contract and billing functions in a secure way so a company can offer such a service over the Internet, Sutor said.

Sutor admitted that the flexible definition of Web services--which has been used both to define a Web-based application offered as a service, as well as the actual linking of applications using XML over the Internet--might be puzzling to solution providers and companies that want to use the technology.

"The definition of Web services can sometimes confuse people because they're not sure if you're talking about the application or all the computer science that goes along with that, such as SOAP and WSDL," Sutor said.

He said that Allegro actually brings those two definitions together into one product, showing how IBM is using the Web services standards it has built into its software products as a "modular framework" to build an infrastructure allowing people to offer Web-based services.

"Actually, building Allegro is an exercise in using Web services to connect all the components you need to provide this function," Sutor said.

Sutor said IBM gets "a lot of questions" about how its Web services strategy stacks up against Microsoft's. He said that while Microsoft has a name for its plan with .NET, IBM has a competitive advantage with the actual support for Web services in its software products.

"We like to emphasize these things about how IBM is really using Web services increasingly across our software portfolio," Sutor said. "We don't have to have a .NET name to do these things,it's just part of the infrastructure. I think if you do a comparison with what we've already delivered, it's going to be pretty clear that IBM is way ahead of the rest of the industry about actual deployments of Web services in our products."

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