IBM adds modules to WebSphere software

An updated version of IBM Corp.’s WebSphere Business Integration Server software will be out later this month, according to the company, along with two new add-on modules based on technology IBM acquired in September through its purchase of Holosofx Inc.

IBM’s WebSphere Business Integration software is intended to link corporate applications and business processes, which the product can model and automate. WebSphere Business Integration Server version 4.2 adds extended Web services functionality, including new features for converting human workflows tracked by the system into Web services. For example, a supply-chain approvals process could be modeled by the system and exposed as a Web service, allowing users to participate in the operation online rather than through an offline process.

Also new in the update is support for Eclipse, the open-source programming tools-integration platform whose development IBM spearheads.

Along with the 4.2 upgrade, IBM plans to release two new modules, WebSphere Business Integration Modeler and WebSphere Business Integration Monitor.

IBM’s goal with WebSphere Business Integration is to let customers mesh their business processes with their IT infrastructure, said Rachel Helm, IBM’s director of product management for WebSphere Business Integration. The new modeling module will aid customers in identifying and simulating business processes, she said, while the monitoring component offers users dashboard views of ongoing operations such as sales processing and supplier interactions.

The core of both products came from Holosofx, whose technology has now been revamped and integrated into the WebSphere line, Helm said.

One new WebSphere Business Integration customer said he is not yet using the new modeling and monitoring modules, but looks forward to soon deploying them.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., in Miami, is tackling the project of “detangling” its internal IT infrastructure, an initiative it hopes will leave it better able to manage end-to-end tracking of its travel customers, said Program Manager Nick Pietrocarlo.

Put on hold after the Sept. 11 attacks devastated the already slumping tourism industry, the project was resurrected in July. When Royal Caribbean first reviewed vendors in 2001, its top technology choice was CrossWorlds Software Inc., but it had reservations about the small vendor’s future, according to Pietrocarlo.

“We said at the time, ‘If IBM would just buy CrossWorlds, the decision would be a no-brainer,'” Pietrocarlo said. Soon after, that acquisition happened, so when the project was revived, Royal Caribbean signed on with IBM. It had evaluated products from other vendors, including WebMethods Inc., but felt those products were “a little too proprietary,” he said.

Royal Caribbean is currently working with WebSphere Business Integration 4.1.1, linking applications including its accounting and reservation systems. It hopes to move its project into production within six months. Then, within the next two years, the company plans to deploy add-ons such as the modeling and monitoring systems, and to integrate third-party applications from vendors including J.D. Edwards & Co., PeopleSoft and BEA Systems Inc.

“So far, things are going great. We love the product, and we love the support,” Pietrocarlo said.

Pricing for WebSphere Business Integration Server 4.2 starts at US$124,000 per processor. The add-on cost of the monitoring and modeling modules varies widely based on customers’ configurations, IBM said.