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Create Applications With IBM WebSphere

WebSphere has continued to evolve and innovate through the years. While it is certainly a powerful enterprise ready system, it can also be used by small companies.

You’ve probably heard of IBM WebSphere, but interestingly enough, I have found that many folks don’t really understand what the product is or what it does. IBM Websphere is first and foremost a type of middleware. More specifically it’s an application server, which is why it’s commonly referred to as WAS (WebSphere Application Server).

What is middleware exactly, and is that the same term as an application server? What options do you have with WebSphere and what are some of the new features of the most recent version? These are just some of the topics we’ll review here.

Let’s define middleware first. Middleware is the software layer that sits between your OS and applications, on each side of distributed systems in a network. It connects applications together and further enables your communications and management of data and databases. In other words, it’s used by the end-user to create, connect and integrate applications.

What about an application server? The distinction between the two is that while middleware can be anything that is not part of the OS, an Application Server is a type of Middleware. Using more traditional IT jargon—it’s the software framework that provides the facility for you to create web applications along with the server that runs them.

Where does IBM WebSphere fit it? Websphere is a set of Java tools that allow end users to create and manage applications. WebSphere is an application server that provides the ability to allow you to connect users of the WEB with Java applications and servlets. It connects your existing Java applications and provides a secure Java EE. What really sets Websphere apart from its competitors is its ability to scale and the fact that there are so many options available for you to choose from. Let’s review some of them.

WebSphere Application Server—Liberty Core

WebSphere Liberty is a light weight production runtime, which can be used to rapidly set-up an environment and web applications, which do not require a full Java stack. It’s a quick download and has full integration with open platforms. It includes JAVA EE Web profile for Web, Mobile and OSGI applications. It is also an ideal environment for microservices. Why use microservices? We use microservices, when you want to develop a single application as a suite of smaller services, each of which runs its own processes and communicates with lightweight mechanisms, which are usually based on an HTTP resource API. Because this edition has such a smaller overall footprint, it provides you with more development time and is faster to deploy. You can also run applications written on this platform on the more traditional version of IBM WebSphere Application Server. This edition itself focused more on using servlets, such as JSP, JSF and EJB-lite; it doesn’t include Java Message Service (JMS) or Web Services. This is a truly optimized product optimized for developer productive and web application deployment.

WebSphere Application Server (WAS)—Traditional

This is the flagship product that provides you with the secure Java server runtime for your enterprise applications. This is a very mature product, the first WebSphere Application server was released in 1998 and its evolvement in many ways has emulated the evolvement of the Web itself; from the time when you had only static pages and sites to today’s world of constant innovation.

WAS enables you to build, deploy and run your applications with flexible secure and JAVA EE certified runtime environments It can do this across the public, private or hybrid cloud deployments. It includes full Java Message Service, JDBC, Java Batch and full EJB. It also supports Web Tier clustering over multiple types of application server instances. IBM Websphere is now up to version 9, which also allows connects to services such as IBM Watson, Cloudant and the use of APIs, using API Connect. The new version supports IBM DB2 V11.0 and Microsoft SQL Server 2016. Version 9 has full JAVA EE 7 certification support and support for Java Standard Edition (SE) 8. The default SDK is Java Technology Edition, Version 8. Some new features of this version, include Lambda expression support and virtual extension methods. It also provides for improved security.

WebSphere and the Cloud

Yes, it’s available on the Cloud and through Bluemix! In doing so, you are presented with varying options, such as single or multitenant cloud environments to deploy your applications. Options include the Cloud Foundry buildpack and Docker environments, which are tailor made for microservices. The buildpack is the basis of the Cloud Foundry deployment process, which automates the application framework, application compilation and running of the apps. There are also pre-configured virtual machines which allow for quick migrations of existing on-Premise Java application to the cloud! For the enterprise which needs application isolation from applications that are controlled by other systems, you can use the Bluemix environment to deploy your Websphere Application server on Virtual Machines or private bare metal hardware. In this way, your single tenant would create this isolated single-tenant environment that you can use as a backend database connection to your corporate datacenter. What I really like here is that IBM does not force you to use their Cloud. You can deploy WebSphere Application Server Liberty to other Platforms as a Service Offerings (PaaS) such as Amazon or Microsoft AZURE.

IBM WebSphere is an outstanding product that has continued to evolve and innovate through the years. While it is certainly a powerful enterprise ready system, it can also be used by small companies and its Liberty Core edition really has helped it become a product that can be used by literally anyone. The scalability of WAS is one its core features, along with the maturity of the product. I’m looking forward to many other innovations of the product moving forward.


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