IBM Brings Two Generations Together

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IBM has found a way to put yesterday's transactional software onto today's Web services platform, announcing Tuesday several WebSphere tools for IT managers and developers.

What's more, Big Blue officials say the changes can be implemented in hours, not days or weeks, thanks to applications that use setup wizards -- instead of programming changes within legacy programs -- to make the changes.

In today's Web-enabled world, users expect to see easy, click-and-pick choices for e-business transactions, not the "green" screen found on mainframe-generation programs, like customer information control system (CICS) and information management system (IMS), which make up half of the 180 billion lines of legacy code in today's corporate environment.

The IBM improvements capitalize on getting developers and IT managers to migrate to XML-based Web services on Big Blue's WebSphere platform without giving up or having to migrate their existing mainframe applications and code to an entirely new environment.

It's a strategy IBM has been chasing since May, when company executives deemed business integration one it its higher priorities. In light of the current economy, and the dearth in IT budgets, it was a particularly sound strategy.

Lucinda Borovic, director of data center networks at research firm IDC, said IBM's latest offerings have put the company out in front, in an industry where it already has a commanding presence.

"IBM's filling a hole that they had in their product line, in terms of helping customers moving from a traditional emulation screen to the Web," she said. "This is a first step, if you will, to getting to the Internet; you get some of the benefits without having to re-architect applications companies have already created. There's only a handful (of competitors) that can offer the full range that IBM can."

Host Integration
The adage, "out the with old, in with the new," doesn't apply to IBM's new Host Integration Solution version 3 and Host Access Client Program version 3, and Mark Heid, IBM's WebSphere host integration business unit manager, said the new applications will find a ready market in today's economy.

"Business integration is emerging as the most compelling e-business value and by taking host data and turning it into a Web service, (a company) can participate in the new paradigm," he said.

Using an entirely new code design developed by IBM, Heid said many companies will turn to a tool that migrates existing mainframe e- business software programs onto a Web services platform, if the price is right.

While new, IBM has offered an XML-based platform for CICS users for almost a year, through HostBridge Technology, which runs on IBM enterprise servers. Like IBM's new host integration software application, HostBridge's application transferred CICS transactions via a HTTP request to an XML document, not a green screen.

But the advantage, Heid said, is the ease with which IT department's can implement the host integration software. He said the IBM application can be installed and implemented in two hours, and the easy-to-understand Web interface and setup wizards significantly reduce training costs normally associated with a new program -- all without making any programming changes.

"In today's tight economic environment, these host integration solutions have a tremendously fast return on investment (ROI)," he said. "Customers are pursuing (applications) that have sustainable, definable ROI and an established track record; in today's economic environment that becomes a salient point."

According to research firm IDC, IBM garnered a more than 63 percent market share in worldwide host access shipments worldwide last year, up from 59 percent in 2000.

Heid said a program will be introduced in December that will allow businesses to quantify and analyze the ROI the IBM Web services software line have on a company's bottom line.

Once converted from legacy code to today's Web services XML-based language, the information and transactions conducted is easily transferable throughout the company's WebSphere platform and even to other companies in the supply chain.

Also announced was IBMs latest iteration of WebSphere Host Publisher for its zSeries line, version four. It incorporates the latest changes in the host access and integration bundles, helping migrate legacy systems into the fold while producing new Web services applications.

IBM has instituted the following pricing standard for the host access and integration applications:

  • IBM Host Access Client Package for Multiplatforms V3.0 - $252 per registered user.
  • IBM Host Access Client Package for iSeries v3 - $181 per registered user.
  • WebSphere Host Integration Solution (Registered) v3 - $303 per registered user.
  • WebSphere Host Integration Solution (Concurrent) v3 - $446 per concurrent user.
  • WebSphere Host Publisher for zSeries V4.0 - $75,000 per processor.

Application Integration
Getting applications running on different operating systems (OSs) and using different applications to cooperate can be a chore for any developer, IBM officials said, which is one of the reasons the company spent much of 2002 looking for an efficient, integrated development environment. Their answer: WebSphere Studio version 5, which puts 43-year-old-and-growing COBOL programming language, as well as other older but still-used languages, in the same environment as the latest J2EE-produced Web services application.

With Studio 5, developers will be able to bring all these separate applications under one "roof," providing one environment for all the applications to run from within a WebSphere platform.

The foundation for WebSphere Studio v5 is Eclipse, an open-source tool integration platform used by many of the biggest software names in the business: IBM, Borland, RedHat, SuSE, Rational Software and Hitachi, to name a few of the board members. To date, Eclipse has been downloaded more than one million times.

Scott Hebner, WebSphere director of marketing, compares the efforts being made in the Eclipse consortium today to what Microsoft's Visual Studio accomplished in the 1990s. Well, with the caveat that Eclipse is an non-proprietary movement.

"Microsoft has done a pretty good job in unifying those tools under one environment to drive up productivity," he said. "There's one major flaw in that, though, it's limited to Microsoft-only products and Intel-only Windows, using Microsoft-only languages and skills."

Software vendors in the Eclipse consortium, which numbers roughly 150, provide applications through the gamut of operating systems, from Windows to Mac to Linux. All agree to make their software compatible with the standards set by the Eclipse community.

"It opens everything up," Hebner said. "Applications like Domino and Tivoli become plug-ins, middleware products in a WebSphere environment, oh, and by the way, you can have Macromedia, Rational, and XPE interwoven because those tools are all based on Eclipse. The customer is then able to build up their own personalized portal-like development environment."

WebSphere Studio 5 supports the latest standards, including RedHat and SuSE Linux 7.2, (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.3 and Eclipse 2.0.

IBM plans on a staggered rollout of its developer suites over the next couple months. Below are the prices and release dates:

  • WebSphere Studio Application Developer 5, available Sept. 24 for $3,499 per user.
  • WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer 5, available Sept. 30 for $7,500 per user.
  • Macromedia ColdFusion MX for IBM WebSphere Application Server, available Sept. 24 for $4,000 per processor.
  • WebSphere Studio Application Monitor for zOS and OS/390-- available in October.
  • WebSphere Studio Workload Simulator for zOS and OS/390-- available in October.

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