IBM updates WebSphere Application Server software

IBM on Wednesday unveiled a new version of its WebSphere Application Server software, which is designed to protect applications from server downtime and boost enterprise efforts to build a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Version 6 of the WebSphere Application Server can detect server outages and save and process Internet transactions to minimize the financial impact from downtime. The new version of the Java-based server software also offers support for new Web services integration standards and a new messaging engine for boosting application performance, said Bob Sutor, IBM's director of WebSphere foundation software.

The new features are designed to save enterprises the exorbitant costs that can be associated with an application going down, even for a minute, Sutor said. At the high end, a brokerage firm, for example, could lose as much as US$6.5 million per hour from application downtime; an online consumer banking application could cost US$17,000 per hour for downtime, according to IBM.

"If these transactions do not take place or are stalled in some way, someone is going to have to pay," Sutor said.

While restarting a server can take five minutes, the WebSphere application server software can grab the history of what the disabled server was doing and hand it off to another fail-over server within the data center or at another location in less than 10 seconds.

The new application availability features are a response to the needs of high-end users, said Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis.

"That is where WebSphere excels -- features for the extreme high end, for large corporations that need a lot of assurances and a lot of fault tolerance," Willett said. "This just senses things and does the recovery automatically so there is more automatic fail-over capabilities and a little more sensing when something is about to go wrong."

This new functionality is designed to meet user demands to have the same type of confidence level for application availability provided in IBM's flagship CICS Transaction Server to be provided by Version 6, said Dennis Byron, an analyst with IDC. "There are many applications -- primarily financial transactions -- where users require the certainty that the transaction is completed," he said.

As part of its continued push to support enterprise efforts to develop a SOA, the new version includes support for Web services standards, including WS-Transactions, WS-Security and WS-I Basic Profile 1.1. WS-Transactions assures Web service transactions are delivered, while WS-Security authenticates communications between Web services. WS-I Basic is used for the development of interoperable Web services.

In addition, IBM has written a new messaging engine for the application server to boost performance and support simpler connections to the enterprise messaging backbone. For developers, Version 6 also features a new wizards-based drag-and-drop environment designed to automate the most common application development steps.

The new version of the application server software is expected to be available before the end of the year. IBM didn't release pricing information.

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