Web services competition heats up

Application server vendors are gearing up to do battle with IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp. in the Web services game by strengthening their infrastructure toolkits and support for standards.

Sybase Inc. launched today at its Sybase TechWave conference in San Diego EAServer 4.0, the latest edition of its application server, which includes increased J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and XML (Extensible Markup Language) functionality. Last week, Billerica, Mass.-based SilverStream Software Inc. announced its first application server with core support for SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), XML, UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration), and WSDL (Web Services Description Language).

Sybase’s full support for Web services will come later this year, said Peter Hoversten, chief technology officer (CTO) of Sybase’s e-Business Division, in Emeryville, California.

Former database heavyweight Sybase is also offering more infrastructure pieces than in the past. “Now we’re focused on becoming one of the top three vendors among the infrastructure providers,” Hoversten said.

Earlier this month, BEA Systems, based in San Jose, Calif., unveiled a WebLogic version with built-in support for Web services. Dublin-based CapeClear has also expanded its reach with new support for iPlanet’s application server.

Oracle last week made an early version of JDeveloper for 9i available on its Web site for download, targeting developers who build and deliver Web services.

Oracle is behind Microsoft in marketing Web services, but the vendor foresees Web services as the next step for doing business via the Internet, said John Magee, Oracle’s senior director of 9i product marketing, based in Redwood Shores, Calif. Oracle plans to apply its strategy of integrating everything from its database and applications to development tools, and offer a tightly knit package for Web services, he said. Oracle is taking direct aim at Microsoft, IBM, BEA, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems.

Peter Urban, an analyst at AMR Research in Boston, said that JDeveloper tools mark the start of a new push for Oracle. Urban said that Oracle is well positioned to provide a stack for Web services because its integrated approach is similar to IBM’s mix of Tivoli, MQSeries, DB2, and WebSphere. “They have been moving to become more of an infrastructure [provider] for a while now,” he said.