IBM Wednesday shared details about the next major release of its application server, due in December, which emphasizes self-healing capabilities and tools for speeding application deployments.
New to WebSphere Application Server 6 is a built-in high-availability manager. In the event of a power failure or network outage, for example, WebSphere 6 can detect the problem and transfer the affected server's workload to another available resource.
In addition, WebSphere checks its transaction history and hands off a log of what the server was doing when it suddenly became unavailable -- executing a stock purchase, for example -- so that any in-progress Web transactions can be resumed and completed in seconds as opposed to minutes, says Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere foundation software at IBM.
The advantage is that users don't necessarily need to depend on other software to keep things up and running, Sutor says. "This is the first time with WebSphere that we've been able to reduce the amount of time it takes to restore transactions in flight," he says.
With WebSphere 6 IBM also is bolstering its arsenal of tools for companies that want to build service-oriented architectures (SOA).
As part of that effort IBM added support for the latest Web services standards to WebSphere 6 -- including J2EE 1.4, the Web Services Interoperability Organization's Basic Profile Version 1.1, WS-Security from OASIS, and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) Version 3.
UDDI Version 3, in particular, is significant, Sutor says. Some key attributes of the specification are support for digital signatures so users can verify the source of an available Web service; subscription features that let Web services consumers opt to be notified when certain services get updated; and promotion capabilities that let users take services from a departmental registry and promote them companywide.
"Many people think this is going to be the version of UDDI that really makes it much more relevant to enterprises," Sutor says.
Also in WebSphere 6, IBM has rewritten the messaging engine inside the application server to support the latest version of the Java Message Service messaging standard, Sutor says. It's faster now, since the engine can run in the same Java virtual machine as other applications, eliminating the need to cross processing boundaries, Sutor says.
The retooled messaging engine is aimed at making it easier for users to link new business applications to an existing messaging backbone, such as IBM's WebSphere MQ. IBM's application server now handles some of the configuration tasks, such as translating among protocols.
IBM also looked to streamline the way WebSphere 6 handles the myriad communication protocols it supports, such as TCP/IP, HTTP, Secure Sockets Layer and others. It found ways to share code, so that the process of adding protocol support is more efficient. IBM created a new component of the application server called a transport channel service, Sutor says. It's a pluggable architecture that uses adapters to handle communications with the application server. The end result is a doubling of the number of possible simultaneous connections to a given application server, Sutor says.
To save time for developers who build applications with WebSphere, Version 6 includes a new wizards-based, drag-and-drop environment that automates some common steps of application development and deployment. Using the wizards, developers can purportedly reduce the number of programming steps previously needed to build an application by up to 75%.