Big Blue Vows Grid-based Web Services By Summer

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LOS ANGELES -- The Ninth Annual Internet World Spring kicked off Wednesday with keynote Jocelyn Attal, vice president of marketing for WebSphere, IBM's Web services unit for deploying and integrating e-business applications.

To a packed room, although downsized considerably from last year, Attal sketched out the basic concepts underlying Web services and what IBM has up its sleeve for the next phase of WebSphere.

In short, Web services is a group of technologies, standards, and protocols that use the Internet to get applications to communicate with one another and allow companies to connect more efficiently with suppliers, customers, partners, and distributors.

Taking the hassle out of purchasing and maintaining business software and hardware, Web services, based either on a WebSphere, .Net, or a likeminded platform, enables access to business applications over the Internet through standard XML-based interfaces at lower cost and higher quality.

"Web services bridges the gap and creates e-business on demand," said Attal.

Attal announced that by August of this year, IBM would make a major push to incorporate the power of grid computing technology into its WebSphere platform.

Grid computing uses the Internet to connect clusters of computers into the force of one single "supercomputer" and is expected to someday turn the Internet into one single, unified computing platform, providing faster access to infrastructure.

IBM has made recent inroads in developing a grid standards platform that might eventually act as the foundation for future grid architectures and enhance the power of Web services platforms by bringing grid computing into the business sector.

Gartner predicts that the next decade will see businesses transform completely by using grid-enabled Web services to integrate across the Internet, not just sharing applications but sharing computer power.

Attal said that by August of this year, IBM would go public with its grid-enabled services, although she did not reveal details of the rollout strategy or pricing information.

In close competition with Microsoft's .Net platform and BEA Systems, IBM's WebSphere, one of the major players pushing Web services into the business market, has seen 12 straight quarters of growth, according to Attal, with a 50% sales gain since in 2001.

Calling Microsoft a "favorite colleague," Attal made a repeated effort throughout her keynote to diffuse any suggestion of competition between the two superpowers, adding that both companies "must cooperate" with each other because customers are not interested in being on one side of another corporate feud for market share.

"The future is making us an offer we can't refuse," said Attal, using an elaborate and over-used analogy throughout her keynote that likened the Hollywood film industry, in particular the working habits of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, with the power of Web services to transform and simplify business architecture and integrate next-generation business strategies.

Predicting that Web services will soon be a $21 billion industry, Attal praised the virtues of an open XML-based architecture as the key to simplifying business applications, lowering costs, and enhancing business-to-business integration.

"Web services is an evolutionary concept, not a revolutionary one," said Attal. "It's a very simple technological concept of linking applications to business partners and customers without having to change applications."

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