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New WebSphere adapters to ease legacy integration

Yesterday, IBM announced the addition of a number of new adapters for its WebSphere platform. According to IBM, the adapters enable legacy applications to exchange information via WebSphere, reducing the need for custom integration.

NEW YORK -- At a press event yesterday, IBM Corp. announced the addition of a number of new adapters for its WebSphere platform that are designed to help companies integrate legacy applications.

IBM partner companies mostly provide the adapters, now numbering 350 total. According to IBM, they enable enterprises to access data from a broader array of legacy applications, which can then be viewed through a consistent user interface. The goal, said Steve Mills, senior vice president with IBM's software group, is to help companies integrate their existing applications into systems that are more agile and effective.

The Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) adapters broaden the range of applications that can communicate with WebSphere. WebSphere acts as middleware, making the data from integrated legacy applications available to the enterprise without the expensive coding that can be required otherwise.

Companies, particularly those that have gone through mergers and acquisitions, have many incompatible applications to work with. Partner companies and suppliers bring more incompatibility into the picture. Now, data that had been isolated in a single application will be available to an entire organization, Mills said.

Mike Sutton, vice president of IT development for Royal Caribbean Cruises, said that his company has a great need to gather data from hundreds of applications. The company has 30,000 employees spread over 120 countries and caters to 2.8 million passengers a year. It deals with hundreds of suppliers all around the globe.

Sutton said that, using WebSphere's adapters, the company can more efficiently communicate with suppliers, process its payroll and keep track of passenger data across multiple systems that had been unable to communicate before.

For example, Sutton said, the company has 112 different systems that track customer information. Those systems are largely incompatible. Writing code to allow them to communicate would cost between $10,000 and $50,000 per application. And that code would have to be written thousands of times to allow each application to communicate with another individual application, and so on, he said.

Sutton said that connecting applications in this manner has improved customer service and has made the organization better able to react to changes in a timely manner.

That is one of the goals of WebSphere, Mills said. The integration that WebSphere allows is part of a larger strategy by IBM to push what it calls on-demand computing. It's a trend that others in the industry, such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Computer Associates International Inc., have identified as well.

On-demand computing will help enterprises become more nimble and able to react to changes as they occur, Mills said. It requires companies to be able to access as much relevant data as they can when it is needed. It is part of a push to move from vertical IT structures, in which applications and systems were developed for single departments or functions, to a more horizontal approach, where the right users can access all relevant data on a topic, regardless of where it originated.

Sutton said that WebSphere has helped his company to move closer to that goal without having to spend the millions of dollars it would take to migrate from complex legacy systems.

WebSphere costs $150,000. According to IBM, since applications can communicate with each other through WebSphere, fewer connections among applications are needed.


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