IBM upgrades business integration technology

IBM Corp. is enhancing its WebSphere middleware technology in an effort to simplify the task of creating and monitoring data and business-process workflows through corporate systems.

This week, IBM will announce an upgrade of its WebSphere Business Integration software aimed at letting users model business processes that go across different applications without needing to have special Java coding skills. It also plans to roll out improved development tools and increased Web services support.

To widen the modeling and monitoring capabilities in WebSphere Business Integration, IBM is embedding technology it gained in September when it acquired Holosofx Inc., a business integration software vendor in El Segundo, Calif., said Sean Poulley, director of WebSphere business development at IBM.

Previously, the Holosofx applications required a customized link to WebSphere. They will still be sold separately, but Poulley said the Holosofx technology will now be integrated with WebSphere Business Integration Server Version 4.2, which is due later this month.

Closing the Loop

The Business Integration Modeler will let users outside of IT create blueprints of business processes that can be handed off to developers for implementation, IBM said. Companies can also use the modeler with the Web browser-based Business Integration Monitor to develop systems with built-in thresholds and alerts that provide feedback as business processes are executed.

“If I’ve got the modeling tool integrated with the monitoring tool, I get a closed loop,” Poulley said. For instance, he said, a manufacturer could create a workflow process to restock its inventories and let end users know the cost of items as they’re being procured.

Robert Catterall, director of strategic technology for the e-commerce division at CheckFree Corp. in Norcross, Ga., said the capabilities being added by IBM could be useful in involving less technically skilled workers in application integration projects.

“There are people who know Java well, and there are people who understand business processes well, and people in one of these groups are very often not found in the other,” Catterall said. CheckFree uses IBM’s DB2 database and is contemplating a WebSphere installation, he noted.

IBM is making the right moves by starting to combine its various integration products and giving them common tools and user interfaces, said Sharyn Leaver, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. But IBM has yet to standardize on a single runtime engine for its WebSphere application and integration servers, she added.

Doug Brown, director of marketing for WebSphere integration, acknowledged that IBM supports multiple runtime engines within the sprawling WebSphere line. But by year’s end, it plans to consolidate on one runtime technology so applications will be reusable, Brown said.