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IBM Unveils On-Demand Add-On For WebSphere

IBM unveils an add-on to its WebSphere application server that allows companies to shift information technology resources across business software based on demand.
IBM on Thursday unveiled an add-on to its WebSphere application server that allows companies to shift information technology resources across business software based on demand.

The WebSphere Extended Deployment enables corporate customers to make more efficient use of their IT infrastructure, such as hardware and software servers and databases. Users can dedicate servers to business applications running on WebSphere, and then shift processing power dynamically as needed.

IBM is targeting firms that process large volumes of daily transactions, and also have to deal with unpredictable spikes in demand, officials said. Such scenarios would apply to investment firms handling stock trades, retailers experiencing sudden jumps in demand during sales, and online auction houses handling bids for an unexpectedly popular item.

WebSphere Extended Deployment includes a policy engine to shift computing power automatically, or send an alarm to IT administrators, who could make the changes manually. To bring in systems outside the WebSphere environment, the new product can work in conjunction with IBM's Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator, which is capable of managing a broader set of IT resources.

Providing a narrower option for on-demand computing makes sense for companies that have a tight budgets or may not have a need for the larger Tivoli system.

“You really do need to offer this kind of tier-level capability and pricing,” Gordon Haff, analyst for market researcher Illuminata Inc., said. “Otherwise, you're forced to either give it away, or make it so expensive that only the largest enterprises will be able to buy it.”

Offering multiple options for its on-demand technology is particularly important for IBM, which “really wants on-demand to move downhill to at least the medium-business space,” Haff said.

The new product, which is in beta and scheduled for release later in the year, can divide jobs over many processors, databases, software and servers, assigning technology to specific tasks, IBM officials said. It can also prioritize workload based on its relative importance to other tasks.

The system includes a software console for administrators to monitor the performance of the product and handle system configurations.

IBM, along with rivals Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc., have been aggressively marketing the concept of an IT infrastructure that can adapt quickly to changes in demand for computing power caused by shifts in a company's business operation.

While the companies have earned high marks for educating corporate customers, actual technology to make on-demand computing a reality is still evolving. “It's still relatively early in the game,” Haff said.