IBM gets the message

IBM Corp. says it’s beefing up its message queuing software WebSphere MQ with a new open-source user interface and improved monitoring features that spell less expensive application-integration projects for the enterprise.

Big Blue in April announced WebSphere MQ version 6.0, the firm’s business integration software that provides a store-and-forward link between applications. With its vital queue, this software foils chopped cables, broken servers and other problems that might plague application interconnection. If the app-to-app link is down, the queue simply stores the messages, and only passes them on when the link comes back.

Message queuing often acts as middleware between critical apps such as financial trading programs, and ensures that whatever process the end user invokes on one side of the equation — depositing $500 in his bank account, for instance — is relayed as a message to the other side: the bank’s account management system marks the change in the user’s account.

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WebSphere MQ 6 is the first IBM message queuing system to include an “Eclipse” user interface, based on the open-source integrated development environment (IDE) of the same name, Eclipse.

According to John Donaldson, national brand leader for WebSphere at IBM Canada Ltd., MQ’s new Eclipse interface makes it easier for Eclipse-savvy application developers to work with the message queuing software.

“Anyone comfortable using the Eclipse framework to build their applications will be automatically familiar with MQ version 6,” Donaldson said. That means less expensive management, he pointed out. People familiar with Eclipse need not spend time and money learning a new interface to manage MQ.

IBM increased queue size from 1GB to 4GB and introduced 100MB shared queues that many applications can use at one time. IBM also made changes that let MQ adjust the size of page sets, buffer pools and logs for improved operating efficiency.

The latest MQ works with various Web Services protocols, including the simple open access protocol (SOAP). MQ now compresses SOAP messages by up to 50 per cent, according to Scott Cosby, IBM’s program director for WebSphere business integration.

Donaldson from IBM Canada said MQ creates the foundation for an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) — an XML-based, event driven standard for enterprise-wide application integration. He also said the new MQ is meant to plug into an overarching services-oriented architecture (SOA) as this distributed application creation paradigm becomes popular.

MQ 6’s monitoring features — for users to peruse transaction throughput, uptime, time taken for message delivery, etc. — are less complex than were those of its predecessor, Donaldson said, pointing out that simplification is something MQ users requested of IBM.

Tom Fox, assistant vice-president of IT at Wachovia Corp., a financial services firm in Charlotte, N.C., said his company evaluated MQ 6. “Going into the evaluation, we had taken the attitude of this being just another release. What we’ve found are many new enhancements.”

Wachovia is particularly interested in the new user interface, the 64-bit computing support that MQ 6 provides, and the built-in SOAP support.

The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) is considering MQ 6. The auto-services organization uses an earlier version of the software now, but chances are the firm will upgrade to the latest offering by year’s end, said Ken Ontko, the BCAA’s CIO.

IBM’s message queuing software works well for the BCAA. Ontko explained that the group has various applications and operating systems for its three main activities — insurance, travel info dissemination and roadside assistance for its members. Message queuing ties all of the data together.

“We don’t have a lot of requests for improvement,” Ontko said. “About the only one I can think of is the administration could maybe be simplified.”

MQ 6 costs $7,742, according to IBM Canada.

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— With files from John Cox

Related links:

IBM’s information management vision

IBM rolls out SOA initiative

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