IBM Delivers WebSphere 9 with Web Enablement for IBM i 1.1
July 20, 2016 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops that are eager to get their hands on the latest release of the WebSphere Application Server can now do so. On June 24 IBM started shipping IBM Web Enablement for i version 1.1, which includes WAS version 9. Interesting bits shipped with the new release of WebSphere include support for Java 7, integration with Watson cloud services, new API features, and new containerization options, among other features.
WebSphere version 9 brings the first full refresh since IBM delivered WebSphere 8 back in 2011. As was the case with the previous release, WAS 9 includes the full version of WebSphere (now called “traditional” as opposed to “full profile”), as well as the lighter weight Liberty profile favored by agile developers.
In terms of features, WAS 9 brings support for Java Enterprise Edition (EE) 7 as well as the Java 7 Web Profile, which is a subset of Java EE designed for creating lightweight Java apps that run in simple servlet containers. It’s worth mentioning that IBM is encouraging users to upgrade to Java 7, which is the only supported version of the language on IBM i version 7.3. Earlier this year, IBM announced that it would not support Java 6 in the new OS, and support for Java 8 has yet to be released.
IBM is also encouraging its WebSphere customers to hook into its Watson cognitive cloud services. Watson, of course, is the cloud-based data analytic service that allows clients to do things like analyze unstructured data, such as pictures, or to automatically generate recommendations based on customer searches. Watson is available via an API call, but actually using Watson with WebSphere 9 will require a bit more work than just accessing an API.
IBM is keen to help its IBIM i clients engage with the so-called “API economy,” and WebSphere 9 brings several enhancements in that arena. For starters, the WebSphere Connect feature helps customers turn WebSphere apps into APIs that are documented with the Swagger API documentation for JSON. WebSphere 9 also offers “seamless” integration between a Liberty app and IBM dashDB, a hosted data warehouse run by IBM for analytics. Last but not least, WebSphere 9 includes a copy of IBM API Connect Essentials, which is useful for creating, discovering, and publishing APIs.
The new release of WebSphere also includes new container features in the form of improved support for Docker containers and Docker Data Center configurations. Docker simplifies how apps are moved from development to test to production in on-prem, cloud, and hybrid environments, and is an example of how IT will be conducted in the future. However, it’s unclear what impact the improved Docker support brings to customers who run software on IBM i servers, which do not support Docker containers.
IBM i doesn’t run on any public cloud, and so it’s unlikely you’re going to run an IBM i-based WAS instance on a public cloud (private clouds are a different beast). But for those running WebSphere on commodity servers, IBM is now offering simple deployments of WAS 9 workloads to a range of public clouds, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Openshift, and Pivotal Cloud Foundry, in addition to its own IBM Bluemix.
In addition to cloud, mobile, analytics, and social, DevOps has emerged as a key term in IBM’s marketing quiver, and so it’s not surprising that WebSphere 9 comes with extra DevOps goodness. To that end, IBM says it has “enabled continuous delivery” and removed “cross-team dependencies” with the new release of WAS.
There wasn’t much about IBM Web Enablement for IBM i in IBM U.S. Software Announcement 216-298. According to previous IT Jungle stories, the software includes a set of tools for building Web apps in an IBM i environment. However, with IBM Web Enablement for i version 1.1, the product appears to be primarily a vehicle for delivering WebSphere 9, which runs on AIX, HPUX, “IBM iOS,” Linux, Solaris, Windows, and Ubuntu, according to IBM.
One would think that a product sporting a version number like “version 1.1” would be a new product, but that is not the case. IBM has shipped a product called IBM Web Enablement for IBM i version 7, which included WebSphere Application Server 8 (all based on Java EE version 6) since all the way back in 2008.
IBM has changed the version numbers associated with this program. Whereas IBM Web Enablement for IBM i version 7 went by 5722-WE2 in the IBM product catalog, the new IBM Web Enablement for i version 1.1 goes by 5733-WE3. Needless to say, it’s unclear what motivated IBM to reset the version number on this product; usually it gets creative in conjuring up new strange new product names, not numbers.