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Exciting Plans Loom on the WebSphere Horizon

Exciting Plans Loom on the WebSphere Horizon

Eclipse and IBM's open platform are helping to shape an exciting future for WebSphere, according to the WebSphere marketing team, headed up by Scott Hebner, director of marketing for WebSphere infrastructure software.

The WebSphere marketing team includes Joe Anthony, program director for WebSphere Extensions marketing; Derek Bildfell, program director for business development; Aimee Munsell, program director for WebSphere Application Server; Bernie Spang, program director for WebSphere Studio marketing; and Stefan Van Overtveldt, program director for WebSphere Technical Marketing.

WebSphere Developer's Journal editor-in-chief Jack Martin recently had the opportunity to talk with Hebner and his team in a wide-ranging and exclusive discussion. This third installment focuses on tools for rapid application development, the broader development community, the need to address the full life cycle of an application, and how Eclipse has significantly shortened time-to-market for new tools.

WSDJ: Bernie, what are the three most important things that you see coming out in Studio over the course of the next 12 months? Do you have anything on the horizon that's just going to melt the developers' minds when they see it, that will make them say, "This is so cool! I can't stand it! I have to buy another copy of Studio!"
Well, what will melt people's minds are the tools that we are going to be delivering in the next 12 months that are focused on rapid development - easy development that doesn't require you to be a Java programmer for Web applications, form-based development, as an example. The transition that we just went through to create the open platform and to bring our Java development tools over was a significant step. Now we are focused on tools for the platform that further accelerate development. The second thing is building on what we talked about earlier ("Solutions, Not Technology, Drive WebSphere Products,"WSDJ, Vol. 2, issue 4) with grid computing - and the Web services that we mentioned. What you see in Studio right now is just the start, just scratching the surface of a service-oriented approach to development of applications and building the software as a set of services that can be loosely coupled and quickly integrated. It's leveraging our service-oriented infrastructure that's going to blow developers away and make them more productive.

WSDJ: Do you have the business rules going into this? Is that where you are going with this?
That is another thing that will make a significant difference that will be tied in with this. What you are seeing today in Studio with Web services is focused on workflow - the choreography of services into an application and the evolution of that. You see the beginning of bringing business rules into WebSphere Application Server Enterprise. Adding business rules support means the ability to build the intelligence into the service to operate based on business rules that can be managed without having to redevelop the application - that can be managed by the businesspeople. We change the behavior of the business application because the business has changed and the rule has changed. You are going to see an increase in that capability.

WSDJ: And the programmatical skills that they are going to need are going to be significantly reduced - is that what you are saying?
Yes. Because what we are focused on now is not the basic programming environment. We have that. Now, in a sense, we are focusing on delivering developer solutions. That says I need to build a loosely coupled system that ties it together, that's modifiable by the businessperson by adjusting a rule. We are not going to give them programming tools to do that; we are going to give them the development environment that guides them through doing that to generate as much of the code as possible. We're simplifying the interface to the developer so that they can do it rapidly and productively and - we often forget the other, most important, thing - with high quality. The best practices for how to implement this are built into the development model.

Derek: The thing that I would want to add is that as we look at the broader community and the broader IBM portfolio - at the tools that we intend to acquire with Rational, for example - we're looking at how we can establish a development model where our customers really tie the business user and developer together, by using Holosofx for example, for business modeling. We also think about the key development communities, such as ColdFusion developers, UML developers, and Visual Basic developers. What do we have to do both with the product portfolio and through creative relationships with selected partners and communities of partners? You see the results of this focus in our deals such as Macromedia ColdFusion for WebSphere and the recent acquisition of Rational Software.

WSDJ: What is Holosofx?
Holosofx is a company that we acquired last year - a very small company, but they are a leader in three key areas. One is business process modeling. So it's a tool that, for example, anyone who is proficient in PowerPoint can use at that level.

It's for someone who needs to understand how business should operate. What you can do is take the business model that you develop with Holosofx and plug that into Rational's application modeling environment and have an IT architect model from an application perspective - design how that business process should work throughout your IT infrastructure. Then you can take that application model, which is greatly enhanced, and you can plug it right into WebSphere Studio Application Developer, for example. You have all of your class libraries, all of your application's structure. It is predefined for you.

At the back end of this, you use some of the other Holosofx tools like the monitoring function to see how one of the applications in production is performing against the predefined business process. This is what we mean when we talk about the notion of how business processes can be modified and put into production very rapidly. This is what we have enabled by getting those two companies, in addition to our WebSphere Studio portfolio. The fact that all of those tools are based on the same Eclipse foundation enables an immediate integration between those capabilities.

Derek: That's one dimension. Another important dimension of the complement that Rational provides as a strategic partner or as an IBM division is the life-cycle management from requirements definition and maintenance through to the testing and building on WebSphere Studio capabilities. That life cycle - addressing the full life cycle of an application from the idea of a business need, to capturing the requirements through to the testing, deployment, and ultimately, retirement of the application - is another dimension in which you are going to see WebSphere Studio grow, complemented by the Rational offering.

Bernie: There is one other exciting thing that I just want to add to what you said that's going to knock developers' socks off - your comment about research and that in every cubicle there's a different researcher with a different thing. One of the other very important values of the Eclipse platform to IBM is these researchers - who used to develop stand-alone tools, used to create their own code base from the ground up, their own user interface, their own this and that. Even if we saw something that we liked and needed and that the customer wanted, it would take us 6 months, 18 months, sometimes 2 years, to turn what the research guys did into a product. Now, they have plug-ins to Eclipse that we can put on alphaWorks tomorrow, that WebSphere Studio developers can download and plug in, and it's an integrated part of their development.

WSDJ: So is it a corporate edict now that everything at Watson has to be Eclipse compliant?
The good news is, it's not a corporate edict. It didn't need to be. The base is cool. They like it; they want it; they don't have to re-create what's there.

When I started two years ago, every couple of weeks someone would come to my office and show me the great new tool that we should be putting into WebSphere Studio and I'd say, "What base?" This would take us years to incorporate in with everything else we are doing. Now everything that I'm seeing is, "Let me show you this cool new Eclipse plug-in."

More Stories By Jacques Martin

Jack Martin, editor-in-chief of WebSphere Journal, is cofounder and CEO of Simplex Knowledge Company (publisher of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal http://www.s-ox.com), an Internet software boutique specializing in WebSphere development. Simplex developed the first remote video transmission system designed specifically for childcare centers, which received worldwide media attention, and the world's first diagnostic quality ultrasound broadcast system. Jack is co-author of Understanding WebSphere, from Prentice Hall.

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