IBM Websphere gains user-friendly face

With users and partners alike in mind, IBM is readying a new "businessware" user interface and tool set for the next major release of Websphere, set for rollout in April.

With users and partners alike in mind, IBM is readying a new "businessware" user interface and tool set for the next major release of Websphere, set for rollout in April.

Further updates to Websphere are eyed for September and December of this year. The businessware's "tooling dashboard" will sit on top of IBM's Websphere, MQSeries middleware, and VisualAge development environment.

Do you agree Websphere is easy to use? YES Rob Lamb, Websphere's director of business process management, says IBM's upcoming "businessware" is aimed mainly at making it easier for non-technical people to access and integrate information from more than one data source.

In particular, IBM is targeting the offering at business analysts who need to be able to drill down on information located in databases running on some combination of mainframes, Unix, and Windows NT, for instance.

But Lamb maintains that the new software will carry benefits for partners as well. "We fully expect that partners might be developing industry process templates for automating specific business processes, such as billing processes or funds transfers," he says.

Over the past year, the proportion of MQSeries revenues generated by partners has risen to 40 percent, according to Lamb. Meanwhile, Websphere has grown its partnership base from 300 to 500 companies.

Lamb gives much of the credit of these feats to IBM's multiple partner programs. "We've also been actively recruiting partners at places like IBM's Partnerworld show," he notes.

IBM's new Strategic Alliance program for ISVs has signed up 50 partners during its first year alone, for instance. IBM launched the ISV program after deciding to leave the application software business. Partners also like the chance to tap into IBM's brand name as well as the hefty systems integration clout of IBM Global Services, according to John Madden, IT analyst at Summit Strategies.

The Summit analyst thinks that IBM's ISV program is giving competitors like Sun and Microsoft a serious run for the money. Like IBM, Sun has also been playing matchmaker between integrator and ISV partners. "There isn't a wholesale partner migration, but there's a shift (to IBM) nonetheless. It's one that competitors - particularly Sun - will be watching," Madden predicts.

IBM doesn't plan to preview its new Websphere businessware at Partnerworld 2000, according to Lamb. However, IBM will be making a number of other partnership program and product announcements at the upcoming conference, which starts February 25.

IBM Global Finance (IGF), for example, will roll out a set of new finance programs geared to partners of various sizes. IGF will also demo new "portable" software tools for managing financial items like leases and loans. The tools will run on IBM's PalmOS-based handheld Workpads, says Bill Doscas, IGF's VP of marketing and sales operations.