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IBM rolls out SOA-friendly kit for WebSphere CE

When IBM announced its SOA Business Catalog, an index of canned IT services developed by IBM and IBM business partners, earlier this month, the news included the arrival of a SOA-friendly kit to help developers integrate PHP application front-ends with WebSphere. By year’s end, officials say, the new catalog should be home to about 3,000 SOA assets (across at least 15 different industries). SOA assets include process templates, Web services, and miscellaneous tools and adapters.

IBM officials say the PHP integration kit, which is available as a free download on its AlphaWorks Web site, will help customers build PHP-based application front-ends using Big Blue’s Apache-based application server, WebSphere Application Server (WAS) Community Edition (CE), technology resulting from its May 2005 acquisition of Gluecode.

IBM representatives took pains to spin the PHP kit as a SOA-friendly offering, but the reality, officials acknowledge, is that customers can and will tap the kit in a huge variety of different scenarios.

“What it’ll allow a developer to do is basically build a J2EE application that includes PHP, so that introduces the opportunity to use PHP for what it’s good for, for building Web front ends and simple logic. By making the integration kit available, we’re presenting that as an alternative for people building J2EE applications with WAS CE,” says Paul Buck, director of Gluecode development with IBM.

Buck says PHP is an open-source scripting language that’s ideal for building lightweight applications, particularly as front-ends for J2EE app servers. The new kit helps improve the interoperability between the open source PHP runtime and the WAS CE app server: “The PHP run-time that’s generally used is what’s picked up at php.net—it’s all open-source technology, but with the integration into WebSphere, you can actually use WebSphere to serve up the PHP requests, so with the integration kit, as the requests come in to WebSphere, it will know exactly what to do with it and will dispatch it off to the PHP runtime.”

As far as service-enablement is concerned, Buck alludes to skyrocketing PHP usage—some estimates put the number of PHP-enabled Web sites at 20 million—and suggests the technology provides a fast and extensible way to expose data sources. “PHP is really good for Web front-ends. That’s really where it cut its teeth on the Web, with building Web front-ends to access data, to collect data, to present user interfaces to update back end systems.” It’s likely IBM will provide PHP integration for the pay-for-use version of WebSphere, too, Buck says.

WAS CE is a lightweight J2EE application server that’s based on the Apache Software Foundation’s Geronimo technology. “You can download it, it’s free, [and] the license you get allows you to use it as a commercial application server, but there’s no support. If you want support, then we sell three levels of service agreements,” he notes. “The service agreements are per-server, and for server that’s a system that includes up to four CPUs.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor for Enterprise Systems. He can be reached at stephen.swoyer@spinkle.net.

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