IBM updates WebSphere developer tools

IBM Corp. will upgrade parts of its WebSphere Studio family of developer tools in the coming weeks, promising to reduce the time and effort it takes developers to build Java-based applications and Web sites.

On Aug. 29, IBM plans to ship version 5.1 of WebSphere Studio Application Developer, priced from US$3,500 per developer, and version 5.1 of WebSphere Studio Site Developer, essentially a subset of Application Developer, priced from US$1,000 per developer, the company announced Thursday.

The upgrades aim to reduce some of the time-consuming coding that developers have to plough through when they build Web sites and applications by automating certain tasks and introducing new templates and wizards, said Bernie Spang, director of marketing for WebSphere Studio.

For example, the Site Developer upgrade includes shortcuts developers can use to update content and links on a Web site, replace banners and move data. One new feature lets them shift groups of links en masse to another part of a site, another will automatically debug Web applications including VisualBasic and JavaScript code running in a browser, IBM said.

The update to Application Developer has new drag and drop features for building user interfaces. It also lays the groundwork for supporting a standard called Java Server Faces (JSF) that is expected to be finalized later this year. JSF should reduce the time and complexity of developing, testing and managing user interfaces for J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) applications, Spang said.

The usability enhancements to WebSphere Studio look enticing enough to make upgrading worthwhile, said Phil Hartley, president of Unity Software in Scottsdale, Ariz., which provides WebSphere consulting services.

Perhaps more important for Unity, Hartley said, the WebSphere Studio upgrade adds support for version 2.1 of Eclipse, IBM’s open source framework that lets developers use tools from multiple vendors in a single environment. Unity developed an Eclipse plug-in for Qualcomm Inc.’s Brew toolkit, making support for a newer version of Eclipse in WebSphere Studio a welcome thing, Hartley said.

“There’s a bunch of usability and performance improvements in Eclipse 2.1, so that’s probably the best thing to us in this new release,” he said.

WebSphere Studio 5.1 also supports standards developed by the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) organization, a multi-vendor group that’s defining technical guidelines to ensure interoperability among Web services applications. IBM claimed its tools will be the first from a major vendor to support version 1.0 of the WS-I’s Basic Profile. The tools will generate messages when a Web service isn’t consistent with the profile, and will include wizards that generate interoperable code, IBM said.

The tools will also include implementations of two Java specifications: JSR 101, for ensuring interoperability among Web services messages, and JSR 109, which should allow a developer deploy a J2EE application on an application server from any vendor that supports the specification. Support for those JSRs bring WebSphere closer to compliance with the upcoming J2EE 1.4 specification, IBM said.

Also Thursday, IBM announced plans to release in October an upgrade to WebSphere Studio Application Monitor for its mainframes and distributed systems. Version 5.1 will be able to automatically sniff out problems that create bottlenecks for deployed applications. It will also generate a report about how much capacity an application needs, so a developer can predict how big an application server or database needs to be to run the application without having to run numerous test scenarios, Spang said.

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