WebSphere 7 Reaffirms IBM's Java Platform Lead


With the seventh generation of its WebSphere software, IBM redefines the state of the art in Java platforms for the enterprise.

The WebSphere 7 product family provides application development and delivery pros with new ways to optimize their application architectures, more development frameworks, automatic transactional reliability, simpler configuration and management, and improved stack integration for BPM, portal, and eCommerce projects. For shops struggling with scale, complexity, and high performance in their Java applications, WebSphere 7 may offer both relief and a simpler, easier-to-manage stack. WebSphere 7 also lays the foundation for cloud architectures and multicore hardware.

IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat JBoss will play leapfrog in Java platforms for the foreseeable future. But clients should evaluate the three leading vendors of Java platforms based on their primary goals for their software, not just by comparing features (and certainly not by comparing public benchmarks). With WebSphere 7, IBM has created a transaction monitor for Java. This goal reflects IBM's primary goals of reliability, integrity, and manageability in WebSphere. In this way, WebSphere is IBM's CICS for the Internet age.

IBM's second primary goal is to create integrated platform stacks. The WebSphere Process Server-WebSphere ILOG-Business Space-WebSphere Application Server combination is one such stack; WebSphere Portal and WebSphere Commerce are other integrated stacks.

Customers should always check the reality before assuming comprehensive integration in IBM's burgeoning WebSphere portfolio. Stack integration will always be a moving target for customers because IBM adds so many acquisitions every year. But IBM's product management regime makes it fairly easy for clients to identify which IBM stacks have high internal integration and which do not.

Compared with IBM, Oracle is also providing reliability and manageability, but its primary goals are stack integration and developer productivity. And Red Hat JBoss' primary goal is creation of compelling combinations of advanced Java application server features and low-cost packaging.

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Incentive for existing customers to upgrade?

That sounds great, but there are certainly a lot of IT shops out there still using WebSphere 5 and 6. I wonder how many will upgrade to version 7, stay with their current version, or simply choose an lower cost alternative like Red Hat's JBoss?

Minor correction and a few thoughts...

IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 7.0 was actually released over two years ago (September 2008). Since then, IBM has released versions of their WAS-dependent portal, content and transaction management application to leverage the new features in WAS 7.

As a customer operating major environments on nearly every major commercial Java application server platform, I can honestly say IBM has been making great strides toward your primary goal since before 7.0. The IBM J9 SDK is second to none in terms of performance, scalability, management and support. And, speaking from experience, IBM's WebSphere software group technical support organization is still the best I've worked with. Oracle may have bought Java, but IBM still 'owns' that space (pardon the pun). Despite the tremendous assets at Oracle's disposal (Oracle, BEA and Sun), I believe IBM will continue to dominate the enterprise Java app server market.

But, yes, although you get what you pay for, WAS pricing is not cheap. Worse, not every Java application server deployment requires the enterprise features WAS provides. In terms of lower cost alternatives, however, EMC VMWare's SpringSource tcServer is a much stronger selection than Red Hat's JBoss EAP. I believe EMC is the dark horse to watch in the Java app server race.