Inside WebSphere Application Server 5 (ADVISOR INTERVIEW)
Stephan Van Overvelt, program director for IBM WebSphere technical marketing, reveals what's coming in the next version of WAS.
Interview with Stephan Van Overvelt, IBM WebSphere, by Tony Higham, Chief Solution Officer, FatWire Software, & Technical Editor, WebSphere Advisor Magazine
Doc # 09808
Length 4 pages
On page 16 of the magazine.
Advisor: What's new in WebSphere Application Server version 5, compared to version 4?
Van Overtvelt: The new capabilities in version 5 center around four key categories: the build to integrate platform, integrated application development, agile deployment and configuration, and end-to-end application optimization.
The build to integrate platform includes a JMS engine, JCA connector support, and core Web services support. I'll explain more about these capabilities later.
The second category focuses on integrated application development, which is the concept behind WebSphere Studio and Eclipse. The focus is on the tight integration between the runtime and the development tool to get better development productivity.
Advisor: What do you mean by a build to integrate platform?
Van Overtvelt: The build to integrate platform derives from a market need IBM recognized in which customers are building more and more integration capabilities into their new applications. They're building new Java logic that links into their existing SAP or mainframe systems or to a system from a business partner, etc. They're becoming more sophisticated in how they link those Java applications to existing systems.
Advisor: How does that compare and contrast to the Java Connector Architecture (JCA) framework?
Van Overtvelt: The JCA framework addresses the specific need to have a connection between my J2EE application and a system such as SAP, for example. The focus of the build to integrate capabilities is performing multi-enterprise system transactions. That is, an application that includes, for example, SAP, PeopleSoft, a DB2 database, and a CICS application.
Advisor: How is that implemented?
Van Overtvelt: IBM has implemented this into a number of technologies. If you look at the core communications environment, WebSphere Application Server has a strong JMS provider, which is a Java Messaging Service (JMS) engine built using WebSphere MQ technology that gives you guaranteed one-time message delivery between Java assets.
Advisor: So you're now including a version of WebSphere MQ bundled in with the software?
Van Overtvelt: It's more than just bundled into the software. There is a version of WebSphere MQ included, but it's only for Java-to-Java assets. If you want to go outside the Java world, you'll still need a full version of WebSphere MQ. The JMS provider (i.e., the MQ technology) also runs under the control of the application server, and the management console is part of the application server's management console. There is tight integration. The technology also gives you high-speed publish and subscribe capabilities.
Advisor: When you install the product, you get the JMS API and a message queing product you can use to perform guaranteed message delivery with other Java-based environments?
Van Overtvelt: Yes, that's correct.
The second set of technologies in the build to integrate platform center around the ability to create an application workflow. Within the WebSphere family, there's a full workflow engine that lets you define logical flows between J2EE assets, JCA connectors, and Web services that can rely on either a synchronous protocol (although you typically don't do that for a workflow) or on the underlying asynchronous JMS communications provider.
Advisor: What other things are new in version 5?
Van Overtvelt: WebSphere Application Server 5 offers the broadest Web services support in the industry, both from a development and deployment perspective. From a development perspective, we're supporting an additional set of standards that are ahead of J2EE 1.3. WAS 5 already supports JSR 109, which is the coming together of J2EE and Web services technology. It also already supports JAXR (Java APIs for XML Registries) and JAXRPC (Java APIs for XML Remote Procedure Calls). Those are the three core Web services standards in J2EE 1.4.
Advisor: A year or so ago, IBM was behind the ball. IBM really delivered with WebSphere Application Server 4. Now with version 5, in some respects, it seems like IBM is going even further and is hitting on the bleeding edge of standards again.
Van Overtvelt: Well, there are a couple of things going on here. WAS 5 includes the standards I mentioned, and it's J2EE 1.3 compliant and certified. In addition, version 5 offers an additional set of standards that are part of J2EE 1.4. However, they will be clearly marked as technology previews, with one exception, because there might still be some changes to the standards. Also, based on the new guidelines from Sun, if IBM includes JSR 109, WAS 5 couldn't be J2EE 1.3 certified because it would already include core J2EE 1.4 components. So, those will be marked as technology previews. However, including them in version 5 lets customers start to experiment with the standards. IBM supports them with the risk that there might still be some changes. The one exception is JMX (Java Management Extentions), which isn't going to change any more.
Advisor: It sounds like there's a lot of work going on for scalability, to make it a manageable project to launch complex deployments. However, for customers who are at version 4 or about to make the decision about version 4, what's the value proposition for version 5 over version 4?
Van Overtvelt: A customer who has version 4 today can with a simple repackaging of their applications (implement new deployment de-scriptors) get up and running with version 5 without any problems. The backward compatibility is there. What do they get in addition? They get even better performance than we have now. We've improved on our caching alogrithms and dynamic caching.
Advisor: Can you put a metric on that?
Van Overtvelt: No, but we'll run some easy performance benchmarks after we get the product out. We know it'll be an improvement, but I don't know how much. You will get an easier management environment.
Advisor: I've had people ask me if they should wait for version 5, and my answer is no. You can get version 4 now, then upgrade to version 5 later when it comes out because there will be complete backward compatability, which you're validating. My biggest question is for the customers who are using version 3.5 and considering going to version 4, or if they've already deployed applications in version 4. Why migrate to version 5?
Van Overtvelt: The key addition in version 5 is the support for J2EE 1.3, which gives you the ability to support full asynchronous applications at the base application server. This is being recognized as a far more productive way of developing applications -- especially distributed applications -- than using RMI and IOP.
Advisor: Can you explain completely asynchronous applications?
Van Overtvelt: Completely asynchronous applications mean that you can rely on the communication between different EJBs to use a messaging protocol instead of a synchronous protocol. It lets you separate out individual pieces of application logic. So if you need to make an update to just one EJB using a messaging environment, you can be pretty sure that update won't affect the other EJBs in your flow.
Advisor: Are you talking specifically about message-driven beans?
Van Overtvelt: Yes, and EJB 2.0. It is far easier to use the container-managed persistence in EJB 2.0 than J2EE 1.2. Other advantages, in terms of Web services, include a high-speed SOAP parser based on the AXIS technology. There's also a private UDDI repository and a Web services gateway that lets you make internal Web services applications accessible to the outside world in a secure and manageable environment. From a security perspective, WAS 5 supports the Java Topography API, Computer Security Institute (CSI), Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS), and the product ships with an embedded copy of Tivoli Policy Director so you can implement business policy-based security management for all your WebSphere managed resources.
Advisor: So you're saying that in version 5, IBM is formalizing and solidifying the support for Web services. Is this support offered already in version 4 as a technology preview?
Van Overtvelt: Yes, you can download the private UDDI repository and Web services gateway from alphaWorks as a technology preview.
Advisor: And the additional value is to provide a secure environment?
Van Overtvelt: Yes.
Advisor: From a standards perspective, does it make applications based on those security environments less portable, or just as portable if you use Java Authentication and Authorization Service (JAAS)?
Van Overtvelt: They are just as portable because the security is implemented in the Web services gateway. The private UDDI standard today doesn't support security mechanisms or authentication. The Web services gateway is actually an application running on WebSphere Application Server, but derives its security, authentication, and access profiling from the underlying WebSphere security mechanisms.
Advisor: The value proposition of the Web services gateway is purely an authentication mechanism to certain Web services?
Van Overtvelt: It's more than that. You can compare it to a proxy server in regular HTTP traffic. The external request for the application will see the gateway as the actual provider application. The gateway will enforce security, do logging, and implement Web services access management. Then the gateway will take incoming authenticated requests and forward the request to the actual provider application, which runs inside the intranet. You would typically put the gateway in your demilitarized zone (DMZ).
Advisor: That's exciting. It seems most companies are barely dabbling in Web services, although I agree that within the next two years, it will be solidly supported.
Van Overtvelt: The biggest issue we've seen is uncertainty about security. We see quite a few implementations of Web services on the WebSphere platform, but they're all within an intranet or a virtual private network (VPN).
Advisor: But, in many respects, the industry has to evolve into the need of Web services, and the standards have to evolve in terms of how Web services will be implemented across platforms and vendors. There's definitely some standards process work to be done.
Van Overtvelt: Yes, IBM is actively working on it. IBM already announced, together with Microsoft and Verisign, Web Services Security as a standard for authentication. However, it doesn't do a good job yet of access authorization across a wide variety of resources, but we're getting there. At the same time, if you want to build a Web services application right now and make it accessible to business partners, for example, you can do it with WAS 5.
Advisor: Will version 5 have the same product names as version 4: Single Server Edition, Advanced Edition, and Enterprise Edition?
Van Overtvelt: There has been some renaming. The core product is WebSphere Application Server; that is our full J2EE 1.3 and Web services-based environment.
Advisor: That's going to be the main product, the base level product? Is that based on the version 4's Single Server Edition or Advanced Edition?
Van Overtvelt: The base product (which follows from WAS Advanced Edition Single Server) comes with three deployment options. You then have an additional deployment option -- Network eployment -- that includes clustering, failover support, workflow management, security, and administration. Network Deployment (ND) basically carries forward from WAS 4 Advanced Edition. There's also a special configuration called Extended Deployment (XD), which is a new deployment option that focuses on typical environments where you're trying to extend the reach of the application server throughout a network. To do that, IBM integrated the technology in WebSphere Edge Server into WAS, including content distribution into the network, the ability to offload applications (primarily JSPs) onto the network, the ability to provide transactional quality of service routing so you can prioritize certain requests coming in, and an advanced caching algorithm to sit in front of your HTTP server.
Advisor: If I want a server to just handle HTML, images, and JSPs, what deployment option should I use?
Van Overtvelt: Depends on what level of availability and scalability you need. If you have a small site, you can still use the regular WebSphere Application Server. If you have a site that needs to handle millions of requests per hour, you should use the Extended Deployment option.
Advisor: I don't know anyone using Single Server, primarily because it works very differently. Advanced Edition offers load balancing, clustering, and failover.
Van Overtvelt: That has changed now. Basically, all the WebSphere Application Server 5 products are the same code. The one exception is the version for the zSeries, which has its own specific code so it can take advantage of the mainframe characteristics.
Advisor: Have the XML data structure and the browser-based configuration gone away in version 5?
Van Overtvelt: There is a completely new management console. As you go from the Single Server version (the basic version) to Network Deployment to Extended Deployment, functions are added to the management console.
Advisor: Is the management console a Java console?
Van Overtvelt: In the Single Server, you have a choice. You can still use a browser-based console, and it has the same menu structure. In Extended Deployment, it is a Java console. They all use the same underlying data structure and database.
Advisor: Being the same code structure, it would be fairly easy to upgrade licenses to a multi-node cluster and use the same database for the new configurations.
Van Overtvelt: It's actually very interesting because the way it works is that if you go from WebSphere Application Server to the Network Deployment options, you only have to install the Network Deployment options on one of the nodes or application servers you have. The others will auto-discover. So the client mechanism to participate in the clustered environment is already present in today's application server.
Advisor: So it will discover and lock itself onto that automatically?
Van Overtvelt: Yes, it will lock itself onto it, and you can start it and then copy configuration files from one server to the another.
Advisor: The Extended Deployment configuration relates to the handling of multiple geographic locations and multiple domains?
Van Overtvelt: Yes.
Advisor: How is WebSphere Application Server 5 priced?
Van Overtvelt: Pricing hasn't been determined yet, but you can expect it to be pretty much in line with what we had before. Before the Advanced Edition Single Server was priced at US$8,000, the Advanced Edition at $12,000. There'll be some uplift for Extended Deployment.
Advisor: Version 5 is clearly a technical advancement. However, say I'm an IT manager who has just spent $200,000-250,000 on WebSphere Commerce Suite 5.4, WebSphere Portal Server 4.1, etc.. Everything is at the 4.x level. Suddenly IBM releases version 5 of WebSphere Application Server. That leaves me a few dilemnas. Why should I buy it? Why should I upgrade to it when I just bought all this other software, given that it's architecturally different? How will the other ancilliary value-add products come up to that level? For a long time with version 4, there was a huge differential in what you could use with it. Often, you stayed at a lower version of the application server to run the value-added products, such as WebSphere Portal Server or WebSphere Commerce Suite. I am fearful that the same thing will happen with version 5, and everything will lag behind for another year again.
Van Overtvelt: I completely understand your point. First, both the buying decision and the user occasion for WebSphere Portal, for example, are different from the application server itself. The application server itself is primarily used to deploy custom-built applications.
Advisor: So what will happen in their level of integration with WAS 5?
Van Overtvelt: IBM made a huge transition when it went from WebSphere Application Server 3.5 to 4.0. The product was different in more than one area, and that required quite a bit of rework for WebSphere Commerce Suite (WCS) and WebSphere Portal Server (WPS). At the same time, IBM also added new functions.
Advisor: Yes, it was a big change and I think IBM did really well.
Van Overtvelt: The change from 4.0 to 5.0 is significantly less. Some work will still need to be done in terms of integrating with the underlying security and management environments. In version 5, there is a completely published set of APIs for security and administration that products on top of the application server can leverage. Not only is it easier to leverage the underlying application server, but it lets other products more tightly integrate. It becomes much easier to run WebSphere Commerce Server and WebSphere Portal Server together on top of WAS 5.
Advisor: In other words, IBM has created an interface layer on top of the core application server to more tightly integrate the solutions on top of the applications, such as WPS and WCS, with each other and the underlying application server.
Van Overtvelt: IBM has also announced that business integration products, such as CrossWorlds Interchange Server and MQ Workflow, will start to benefit from the same underlying application server infrastructure. So they, like WPS and WCS today, will sit on top of the application server.
Advisor: When can we buy it?
Van Overtvelt: The release date will be in the middle of the third quarter.
Advisor: Therefore, the other products, such as WCS and WPS, will be coming a quarter or two behind, sometime in 2003?
Van Overtvelt: Yes.
Advisor: Is the tooling changing at all?
Van Overtvelt: This has not been formally announced, but there will be a version 5 of WebSphere Studio tools, including WSAD.
Advisor: Will they release at the same time as WAS, considering there will be a lot of changes with J2EE 1.3 deployment descriptors and such?
Van Overtvelt: It will be in the same time frame. It may be a few weeks off, but that's it.
Advisor: I'd like to end by returning to the value proposition for WAS 5. It's 2002. It's a very taxing economic time for all of us. Yes, there are some great technological advances in the product, but the CTO or CIO is going to ask you, "So what? What's the business value?"
Van Overtvelt: I completely agree with your point, but let me give you an example. There is a technology in WAS Enterprise Edition called intermanaged messaging. If you're using JMS to communicate between your J2EE assests, it builds all the linkages into the message queue that sets up the queues and manages them for you. If I'm building an application that leverages JMS to communicate between these assets, and I use it in an environment in which container-managed messaging is available, I save about 30-40 percent of my development time. That is a clear business advantage.
About the Author:
Chief solution officer for FatWire Software, Technical Editor Tony Higham has designed and developed software solutions since 1979 and has evolved with the industry from assembler programmer to object-oriented software engineer and architect. With hands-on experience of legacy, client-server, and Web-based solutions, Tony specializes in designing enterprise-scale solutions with a focus on integration with existing systems to create solutions that address real business problems. During his three-year tenure with Lotus, Tony gained deep insight into the Lotus and IBM technologies, and is a true believer in the business and technology value of Java and the WebSphere software platform. With FatWire, Tony works to find practical and cost-effective solutions to customer challenges, using best-of-breed and leading-edge technologies. As a die-hard programmer, and a believer in "practice what you preach," Tony's passion is breaking out the development tools to prove that you can use technologies in a practical manner to create reliable solutions to real business problems. firstname.lastname@example.org.