/ IBM

IBM Finally Gets It with WebSphere 8.5 'Liberty'

Finally! Some long-needed innovation in WebSphere application servers from IBM, and some fresh thinking that may boost the long-term viability of IBM leadership in middleware software.

Whether it is the pressure from Oracle or open-source innovation, or a long-overdue grounds-up overhaul of the WebSphere application server architecture that has been stagnant since version 5.0 -- it is looking good. A start-up time of 5 seconds, grounds-up OSGI with optional features, drop-in deployments and no installer with a zip file of under 50MB. No installer! At least in the alpha version that we had a chance to preview today.

There is still a lot to be done with the version numbering. What is this thing about releasing major technology refreshes on a minor version number? 8.0 was really 7.0+ and 6.1 was a step up from 6.0. The desire to have a common version number across the WebSphere family really did not go anywhere. We have Lotus Quickr 8.1 on WebSphere 6.0 and Portal 7.0 on WebSphere 6.1 and the list goes on. Sometimes, a version refresh of WebSphere was that -- a version refresh. And don't get me started on the dubious software strategy of the same product on two completely different technology platforms -- the infamous Quickr -- the less said about the Portal version the better.

1998-2004 was a period of great innovation in IBM software, and it has pretty much been stagnant since then. Sometimes it appears that the a flock of MBA-types swooped in and milked the software and all its permutations and all kinds of incremental functionality packaged and marketed as 'servers'. There was little innovation in the past five years -- so little that even die-hard IBM fans were looking elsewhere to fulfil their Web 2.0 application needs.

On another note, the HTML-only Sametime client was also a long time coming, but it is a welcome presence now that it is here. How could IBM have missed the use cases for extranet communication and click-to-chat customer service?

Enough criticism. Keep up the good work, Big Blue.