WebSphere spans application server demands

Two criteria govern the selection of an enterprise-level application server: It must fit within your existing application infrastructure, and it must be capable of growing as your application framework expands.

IBM Corp.'s WebSphere Application Server 3.0 stands out on both counts.

First, WebSphere Application Server fits neatly into a wide array of computing environments. Version 3.0 is available for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris and IBM's AIX, OS/400 and OS/390. Linux users will have to make do with Version 2.03 for now, but the company expects to have a Linux update early next year. Rival BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic lacks platform support for OS/390 and OS/400, but the company's current release does support Linux.

IBM and BEA offer a solid level of support for development tools, but the companies take slightly different approaches. IBM's WebSphere Studio 3.0 is a sophisticated, integrated development and deployment environment. Developers also can integrate other development tools, such as Symantec Corp.'s Visual Cafe, with WebSphere. By contrast, BEA offers tight integration between major development tools and its application server [FCW, Oct. 4].

WebSphere Application Server is available in three editions: Standard, Advanced and Enterprise. The Standard Edition will meet the needs of many small to medium-size agencies. It supports the deployment of applications with dynamic content, includes Extensible Markup Language support and provides additional database connectivity options in Version 3.0.

Two other Standard Edition features make WebSphere especially compelling. Developers can deploy applications that use different Java Virtual Machines on a single server. IBM also has included a dynamic language translation engine that will help agencies more easily support globalized applications.

The Advanced Edition contains all the features found in the Standard Edition, but its additional functionality makes it well suited for high-end requirements. For example, we were able to create and deploy several test applications that took advantage of WebSphere's support for application-level security, clustering and workload management.Like BEA's WebLogic, IBM's WebSphere offers server-level support, but it extends the functionality to the application level. Among other things, this means that you can tightly control who has access to particular application components, distribute mission-critical components across an application server cluster for greater reliability or better manage performance of individual applications.

Agencies that have high-volume, transaction-based World Wide Web application plans will want to look at the WebSphere Enterprise Edition. Version 3.0 adds integration with IBM's Component Broker and TXSeries products to better manage transactions.

That support is on par with BEA's integration between its WebLogic application server and its Tuxedo and WebLogic Enterprise products.

While agencies can use a variety of development tools with IBM's WebSphere, WebSphere Studio will prove useful for sites that have teams of developers working on Web application projects.

IBM has added Visual Page Designer, which makes it easier than in the previous release to create Web pages that include dynamic content. I found it easy to create Hypertext Markup Language or Java Server Pages using the Designer. There are also wizard-based tools for creating Java Serve Pages, JavaBeans and servlets.

WebSphere Application Server - with its application-level security, clustering and workload management - is a good match for agencies with higher-end application serving requirements. WebSphere Studio also provides added value for development teams who need to rapidly create and deploy WebSphere applications. IBM's WebSphere Application Server 3.0 and WebSphere Studio 3.0 together form a stellar solution for larger agencies that have demanding and complex application needs. Agencies that want to investigate only the strongest application server solutions should place WebSphere on the short list.

Biggs is the InfoWorld Test Center's technical director and enterprise computing acting section editor. She evaluates enterprise technologies, has more than 15 years of IT experience and writes the enterprise toolbox column.

************************WebSphere Application ServerIBM Corp.(800) 426-4968www.ibm.com

Price and Availability$7,500 per processor on the open market for WebSphere Application Server Advanced Edition and $495 per developer for WebSphere Studio Version 3.0. Agencies may request government-specific pricing by calling (800) 333-6705, sending e-mail to govern@us.ibm.com or by signing up for IBM's Passport Advantage program.

RemarksIBM's WebSphere Application Server 3.0 and WebSphere Studio 3.0 form a stellar solution that aptly meets the needs of high-end distributed application development and deployment. WebSphere fits neatly into mixed platform environments, scales very well and offers full-featured development tools and options that will reduce development time lines.

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