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IBM announces new 'self-healing' WebSphere

The first major release of IBM WebSphere in two years offers self-healing capabilities to provide failover for business transactions conducted via the Internet.

In announcing WebSphere Version 6 on Wednesday, IBM points to estimates that the failure of an e-business application can cost a company as much as $110,000 per minute in lost revenue and productivity.

Scheduled to be available before the end of this year, the new WebSphere Application Server is designed to "automatically detect problems -- from small network glitches to power failures or natural disasters -- and, in a matter of seconds, save and process Web-based business transactions that could take hours or days to recover under older systems," IBM says. As soon as the system detects a problem, the transaction and related data would be automatically moved to another server either within the same data center or, in the case of a power outage or disaster, to another geographic location.

The self-healing features are part of IBM's "autonomic computing" initiative, which includes self-configuring to help IT staffers quickly set up servers for Web applications, says Bob Sutor, director, WebSphere foundation software.

Businesses, such as banks and financial institutions, are looking for Web server software and hardware to provide them with the kind of zero downtime they came to expect from the bulletproof Big Blue mainframes of an earlier era, Sutor tells eADT. The self-healing and self-configuring features help to provide that by not only detecting when a server is down but also what transactions were "in flight" when it failed, he explains. The previous generation of servers had to be rebooted before this data could be recovered and the transaction completed, Sutor notes. This loss in time also meant a loss of money.

He stresses that the financial losses from the failure of e-business applications is not trivial, and "can quickly exceed millions of dollars per hour" for high-volume businesses such as stock brokerages. A white paper IBM produced this past summer estimates the average per hour loss from a Web app failure by business vertical as $6.5 million for retail brokerages, $2.6 million for credit-card authorizations, $90,000 for airline reservations, $28,000 in package shipping services, $27,000 in manufacturing and $17,000 in banking.

The release of WebSphere 6 is a little anticlimactic, says Tony Baer, a columnist for ADT and a principal with onStrategies, a New York-based consulting firm. "My quick take: There is little surprise in WebSphere 6 because IBM has been talking about many of the enhancements for months and, in some cases, offering them in limited release."

Noting that such pre-releases are a sign of the times, Baer says the highlights of WebSphere 6 are "the extended deployment features that help to activate clusters faster, plus support of BPEL standards that IBM has been pushing through the Web services community."

Among the deployment features, the new version of WebSphere will include wizards to help developers reduce the amount of hand coding required to build applications and added support for Service-Oriented Architecture, according to IBM.

In developing new wizards, IBM's Sutor said the Big Blue R&D gurus asked one basic question: "Are the wizards really sufficient to make the developer's life easier?" He claims the new wizards can produce a 75% efficiency gain in the development life cycle.

IBM is re-branding its developer tools for WebSphere to include the technology from Rational. IBM Rational Web Developer for WebSphere Software and Rational Application Developer for WebSphere Software are scheduled to be available by the end of this year.

Sutor promises that IBM will have further announcements related to these tools in the coming weeks.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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