Although IBM does not plan to de-emphasise J2EE in any way, company officials said they believed J2EE-based technologies alone were not sufficient to accommodate the emerging on-demand computing environment central to many of its strategies.
"In the on-demand applications world, J2EE alone is like having a heart without the lungs. Putting a web services veneer on top of J2EE is just not sufficient," said IBM director of marketing for WebSphere Scott Hebner.
IBM will also deliver a more complete Web services stack in the upcoming version of WebSphere 5.X. It will include the Web Services Invocation Framework that allows for network-independent interaction among Web services - a precursor technology to a business process execution language - and the ability to have compensation patterns that allow users to back out of any given Web services workflow.
Hebner said the applications built using the new architecture would be able to integrate business processes across an organisation dynamically so users can treat them as individual business services. This is something that cannot be accomplished using just J2EE and Web services technologies.
"You will be able to take these applications and choreograph them into network-based workflows that have transactional integrity without having to understand the underlying complexity of how they were built or where they sit on the network," Hebner said.
The services-oriented architecture of WebSphere is only one of three major pieces that will make up what IBM officials believe will be the Next Generation Application Server. The other two pieces are sets of autonomic capabilities such as self-healing, self-managing, and grid computing capabilities.
"In the next generation of application servers, there needs to be more advanced clustering and failover capabilities, and those will all evolve around grid standards," Hebner said.
Hebner said developers would be able to look at a palette of business services whether they are written in Cobol, EJB, or Windows and take them to compose and choreograph them into entirely new applications.
"You will see us being very aggressive around this idea over the course of 2003," Hebner said.