IBM and customers discuss future of software

Open infrastructure using open standards-based software is the future of e-business, according to IBM officials.

During an international media briefing at the Markham, Ont.-based IBM Toronto Software Lab last week, IBM executives (representing its Tivoli, WebSphere, DB2 and Lotus software brands), developers and customers discussed foreseeable trends in software development.

The newly opened, $150 million dollar lab is the third-largest R&D facility in Canada and accounts for a quarter of IBM’s US$12.6 billion worldwide software revenue, IBM said.

The facility is also a major R&D centre for two of IBM’s flagship software brands – its DB2 database tool and WebSphere, said Hershel Harris, vice-president, WebSphere server development at IBM Canada.

IBM Software and the IBM Toronto Lab are committed to developing standards and working with the open source community to foster innovation in software development, Harris said, adding that IBM’s Eclipse platform has adopted the open approach that has been successful for Apache, J2EE and Linux.

“Eclipse is a new standard which is the base technology on which application development tools are built,” Harris said. ” We contributed a base set of technologies to open source so that other people can build their tools on it and enhance the open source system.”

IBM has also made a US$1 billion dollar investment in Linux, making IBM the number one commercial investor the open source code, said Marcel van Hulle, worldwide vice-president of Linux for IBM’s software group adding that “Linux will do for applications what the Internet did for networks.”

Linux has “crossed the chasm” between early adopters into mainstream business use and 27 to 30 per cent of servers are shipping with Linux, van Hulle said.

Van Hulle recognized that Linux does have its limitations, as it is currently suited to server-based applications and not vertically scaled applications, but he maintained that an open e-business platform such as Linux will prevail due to its low-cost and community developed and owned attributes.

E-business integration services are not a brand or a revolution, said Tom Turchet, vice president, software sales at IBM Canada.

Web services are simply the “plumbing”, or a collection of technologies that fit together to standardize the infrastructure so businesses can work together, Turchet said, adding that Web services is projected to be a multi-billion industry by 2005.

“The industry now understands that to get to the next level of e-business adoption, programs have to be able to talk to each other better. What Web services does is make integration easier,” Turchet said. “Web services means less work to create connections and a lower total cost of ownership.”

Building on the Internet, J2EE and XML, a specialization for different mixes of middleware services, and an integration of emerging technologies is the key to “unlock” dynamic e-business, Turchet said.

The Toronto Police has formed a partnership with IBM’s DB2 Universal Database and WebSphere in the creation of the eCOPS data mining solution, said Larry Brien, detective sergeant at the Toronto Police Service (TPS).

The eCOPS (Enterprise Case and Occurrence Processing System) represents the “next generation” in police operational records management systems, Brien said, and noted that the customized, scalable solution allows TPS’s staff of 7,000 to search and share information on the road or at the station.

Brien said that DB2 rests and synchronizes data on the client/server databases while WebSphere provides the infrastructure for mobile communications, something “off-the-shelf” software could not provide.

“The Toronto Police made the mistake in the past of allowing the off-the-shelf software to change or try to alter how we does our business,” Brien said. “We have laws, procedures, and a lot of rules we must follow and can’t change them to suit the needs of any tool.”

IBM Canada in Markham, Ont. is at