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SOA enhancements drive IBM WebSphere feature packs

In response to SOA developers asking for more time between releases, Big Blue is changing the distrubtion model for WebSphere Application Server 7.0, offering alpha previews to early adopters. Java EE 5 and SCA will be the first two feature pack releases.

In an attempt to please all its SOA developer customers all the time, IBM is changing the distribution model for the next release of its WebSphere Application Server on the one hand and making available part of the alpha code for the next release on the other.

 In pursuit of meeting [developers'] needs and really staying current in key areas, especially standards, we've arrived at these feature packs.
Mark Heid
Program DirectorIBM WebSphere

IBM research on IT customers doing SOA implementations have produced a tale of two mindsets, said Mark Heid, program director for IBM WebSphere infrastructure, and it is changing the way the company releases updates to its application server. Putting out advanced feature packs on Java EE 5 and Service Component Architecture (SCA) has proven to be the middle road attempt at satisfying both crowds.

One group of developers is asking Big Blue to let them catch their breath after the release of WebSphere Application Server 6.1 this past spring, he said.

"They've told us that we're revving the code base too frequently for their tastes," Heid said. These developers are asking for time to gain experience with the current server before they have to move up to the 7.0 release, which IBM is now intentionally delaying to give them a break, the IBM executive said.

"We're still working as hard as we ever did," Heid insisted, "but we're releasing code less often with more in it. So the next release will come somewhat later than other revisions have come to market." He said he could not give a timeframe yet for the release of WebSphere Application Server 7.0 other than to say that the interval will "give customers time to consume what we've already shipped and then be ready for the next big drop."

While this delay may please developers who want to move slowly into the next release, IBM customer research indicates there is a second group of bleeding edge early adopters who want new features yesterday.

"They're aggressive technology adopters," Heid said. "They're always ready to try the next thing. In pursuit of meeting their needs and really staying current in key areas, especially standards, we've arrived at these feature packs."

Two new feature packs, one for developing Web services on the newly released Java EE 5.0 platform and one supporting the emerging SCA model for SOA development, are available for download on IBM's AlphaWorks Website. Both feature packs will run on the current 6.1 app server, but will eventually be part of 7.0, he said.

For more information
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Supporting the feature pack users will cost IBM more money than the old distribution model that simply put everything into more frequently released versions, but Heid said it is worth it because it satisfies the divergent needs of its SOA developer audience. He cautioned that both feature packs are alpha code and are intended to give early adopters a chance to learn to work with the features. They not necessarily ready for prime time deployments. This is especially true of the SCA features since that standard is yet to enter an official standards body.

The Web services feature pack supports new standards, including:

  • Web Services Reliable Messaging (WS-RM)
  • Web Services Addressing (WS-Addressing)
  • SOAP Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM)

The SOA feature pack with SCA components includes support for:

  • Java API for XML Web Services (JAX-WS 2.0)
  • Java Architecture for XML Binding (JAXB 2.0)
  • SOAP with Attachments API for Java (SAAJ 1.3)
  • Streaming API for XML (StAX 1.0)

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