WebSphere Application Server V6.1: What's new in Version 6.1?

An overview of important new features

IBM WebSphere Application Server V6.1 has powerful new features and dramatic enhancements to help you achieve heightened productivity, stronger security, tighter integration, and simplified administration. This overview will introduce you to some of the key features that enable this new release to provide a flexible and reliable foundation for your service-oriented architecture.

To find out what's new in version 7, see What's new in WebSphere Application Server V7.

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Robert Peterson (rrpeters@us.ibm.com), WebSphere Enablement, Austin, TX, EMC

Author photoRobert R. Peterson is part of the enablement team under IBM Software Services for WebSphere. He works to ensure that the WebSphere portfolio of products brings IBM's clients the greatest value possible. Robert is an accomplished inventor and co-author of WebSphere Application Server V6: Performance and Scalability. He is an alumni of IBM's prestigious Extreme Blue Program and holds a M.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida.



14 June 2006

Also available in Chinese

Introduction

IBM WebSphere Application Server is the foundation of the IBM WebSphere software platform, and a key building block for a service-oriented architecture. Version 6.1 provides powerful new features and enhancements to help you develop and run best-of-breed, industrial strength applications with higher quality code and heightened productivity. This overview will help you get started using some of the most powerful new features in this latest release, the theme for which is productivity and simplification for both developers and administrators.


Product packaging

The packaging structure for WebSphere Application Server V6.1 has been greatly simplified. You will notice that you will receive significantly fewer pieces of media for V6.1, since the media shipped will be just for the platform-specific image(s) you require. A platform-specific Quick Start disc is also included in with each offering. These improvements have been made to get you started faster than ever before.

DVDs are now available as a media format choice.


Installation Factory

The installation process for V6.1 maintains the familiar look and feel of the IBM Installation Factory, introduced in WebSphere Application Server V6.0.1. The Installation Factory enables an administrator to build custom, repeatable, pre-packaged installations -- including applications and configurations -- to facilitate reliable, one-click, time-saving installations (see Resources). "Cell out-of-the-box profiles" enable single-pass creation of a cell environment (deployment manager and federated node). Figure 1 shows the composition of an install bundle using the Installation Factory.

Figure 1. Installation Factory
Figure 1. Installation Factory

For V6.1, the Installation Factory has been enhanced to support cross-platform install packages that can save you even more time. For example, a one-click install bundle based on a Linux® machine can now be used to install WebSphere Application Server V6.1 on a Windows® machine. Other changes to the Installation Factory include enhancements to configuration information, such as the ability to deploy EARs, enhanced EARs, and execution scripts.

Additionally, to ease installation, WebSphere Application Server can now be installed by a non-root user. (IBM HTTP Server currently requires root privileges for installation.)


Application Server Toolkit

The Application Server Toolkit (AST) provides basic support for the creation of new applications targeting WebSphere Application Server V6.1. This includes wizards and tools for creating new Web applications, Web services, portlets, EJB components, plus annotation-based programming support, new administration tools, tools for editing WebSphere-specific bindings and extensions, and more.

The AST in V6.1 reaches a key milestone because it includes both a J2EE perspective and a Web perspective, Eclipse 3.1, and Version 1.0 of the Eclipse Web Tools Platform (WTP). It is itself a complete J2EE development environment, thus you can use it to construct, debug, and deploy new applications directly to WebSphere Application Server V6.1.

Although fully capable of developing J2EE applications, the AST is a subset of IBM Rational® development environments, such as Rational Software Architect and Rational Application Developer.

IBM's tooling portfolio can be viewed as the hierarchy shown in Figure 2, in which each previous IDE is contained in the subsequent IDE superset, which offers richer functionality.

Figure 2. Integration development environments
Figure 2. Integration development environments

The hierarchy shown in Figure 2 will be completely realized with upcoming releases of Rational Application Developer and Rational Software Architect. At this time, Version 6.0 of these products does not yet deploy to WebSphere Application Server V6.1, but applications constructed in these environments can easily be imported into AST V6.1 for deployment.

Key features that the AST in V6.1 provides on top of the Eclipse Web Tools Platform include:

  • Server tools for WebSphere Application Server, such as debugging and unit testing support.
  • Support for WebSphere Application Server-specific extensions, such as SIP and Jython tools.
  • Graphical editors for WebSphere Application Server property files and deployment descriptors.

Should you need them, the Rational portfolio provides even more extensive features, key among them are:

  • Modeling and visualization tools.
  • Analysis, validation, and code correctness tools.
  • Test and profiling tools.
  • Support for multiple server types.

The AST is licensed as a component part of WebSphere Application Server. Unlimited copies can be made provided the AST is used for developing applications for WebSphere Application Server V6.1.


JDK 5.0

The WebSphere Application Server V6.1 runtime operates on a Java™ 5.0 virtual machine. Significant performance gains have been observed on certain platforms due to characteristics of the IBM J9 JDK for Java 5.0. There are also major improvements in programmer productivity and application portability, along with significant new language features and API library changes that are too numerous and extensive to list here. However, a few notable changes with respect to J2EE development include:

  • Support for enumerated types. An enumerated type is one that has valid values limited to a set of constants. For instance, an enumeration may be defined for the colors of a stop light as follows:

    enum { GREEN, YELLOW, RED };

  • Auto-boxing of primitives. In Java 1.4, type conversion between the java.lang.* wrapper classes and primitives is very common. For example, you may need to covert an int to a java.lang.Integer in order to add it to a collection. Primitive type conversion is now performed automatically by the compiler.

  • JSR 114: JDBC Rowsets. A javax.sql.RowSet is a data structure similar to a ResultSet; however, a RowSet is serializable and the API includes a subclass called CacheRowSet that can be disconnected from the database. The RowSet API also includes extensive XML support with the WebRowSet.

  • JSR 028: SASL API. Simple Authentication and Security Layer (SASL) is an API that provides an abstraction layer for authentication protocols. It is designed to create a separation of concerns between application protocols and security protocols. Different authentication protocols can be plugged into SASL challenge-response mechanisms.

See Resources for more information on Java 5.0.


Web services

Better application portability and control, and significant performance improvements can be expected for Web services, due to faster parsing technology (thanks to a new, more performant engine), and enhancements to SAAJ and SOAP/JMS.

New Web services specifications are now supported to make your applications more accessible, reusable, and secure, including:

  • Web Services Notification (WS-N) helps standardize the way Web services interact, using notifications or events.

  • Web Services Interoperability Basic Security Profile (WS-I BSP) helps standardize the use of Web services security standards and technology in the development of interoperable Web services.

  • Web Services Business Activity (WS-BA) helps standardize the way transactions are rolled back in a multi-phase commit process.

Figure 3 summarizes the evolution of Web services on the WebSphere Application Server platform.

Figure 3. Web services evolution in WebSphere Application Server
Figure 3. Web services evolution in WebSphere Application Server

Service integration

Integration between WebSphere MQ for z/OS and the default messaging provider in WebSphere Application Server has been enhanced in Version 6.1, enabling you to add a queue manager or queue sharing group as a member of a service integration bus. You also have a choice of message store types (date store or file store), to help improve performance, and ease configuration and administration.


Portlet container

The JSR 168 portlet programming model is supported by WebSphere Application Server V6.1, meaning portlets can be accessed like servlets via a URL without a full portal server. There is now the freedom of choice between the two controllers in a Model-View-Controller Web architecture. Lighter-weight custom portlets can be constructed with the AST to run on WebSphere Application Server V6.1, as an alternative to requiring, for example, IBM WebSphere Portal, an enterprise-grade portal system with pre-built portlets, client side integration, personalization, and a more feature-rich runtime portal environment.


Session Initiation Protocol support

WebSphere Application Server V6.1 introduces industry-leading integrated support for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is at the center of emerging standards for multimedia and telephony-over-Internet protocols. SIP is at the center of IP technology -- the next generation telecommunications network -- and is often the key technology to enabling Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, instant messaging, IPTV, and Internet chat services. (Chat services provided by Microsoft®, Yahoo, IBM, and AOL are all based on SIP.)

WebSphere Application Server implements JSR 116, which standardizes a servlet that consumes and produces SIP signaling interactions, similar to a traditional HttpServlet that consumes HTTP requests. A new packaging construct is provided called a SIP Application Resource (SAR), similar to a WAR file, that can encapsulate SIP servlets and traditional HttpServlets, which are both fully supported by the new AST (Figure 4).

Figure 4. SIP application packaging
Figure 4. SIP application packaging

WebSphere Application Server V6.1 uses a converged container for SIP and Web applications; the same container processes both application artifacts. The advantage of this is the ability to easily enable converged HTTP and SIP interactions, providing portlets, HTTP servlets, and SIP servlets. A SIP application can access Web container resources, such as HTTP sessions and JNDI objects, and vice versa: a HTTP servlet can access a SIP API to, for example, enquire state information from a SIP session. The converged SIP and Web containers also enable creation of converged HTTP/SIP Web services, where a Java bean-based Web service implementation can directly access SIP signaling functionality.

Support for SIP is extended to edge components. Proxy support is provided for clustering, high availability, and affinity mapping, analogous to the traditional edge component support for HTML requests.

SIP tooling is also provided in the AST to help you more easily build SIP applications.


IBM Support Assistant

The IBM Support Assistant is now bundled with WebSphere Application Server V6.1 for more effective and faster self-help and problem reporting. The search and service components provide a universal starting point for data collection, problem diagnosis, and documentation relevant to the problem.

For example, the service component of the IBM Support Assistant automatically collects required WebSphere Application Server system data and provides actual forms for submitting a Product Maintenance Request (PMR) to IBM Support in a single dialogue (Figure 5).

Figure 5. IBM Support Assistant
Figure 5. IBM Support Assistant

JSF widget library

JavaServer™ Faces (JSF) support has been enhanced with an extensive new library of pre-built functions you can use in your Web user interfaces, saving you time and expense. Use DatePicker, DataGrid, Menu, TabbedPanel, and many other out-of-the-box components to build rich, componentized Web applications with minimal effort (Figure 6).

Figure 6. New JSF widgets
Figure 6. New JSF widgets

Simplified administration and maintenance

Extensive ease-of-use enhancements have been made to increase productivity and lessen the burden for system administrators. The administrative console provides guided activities to document common tasks, like configuring database connections and routing requests from a Web server to an application server container.

New automation tools in the Application Server Toolkit provide a full scale integrated development environment for developing and debugging WebSphere admin scripts. Features include a color-coded source display, command completion, configuration navigation, and syntax checking, plus a drag-and-drop feature that automatically generates the appropriate automation command based on the tasks you select.

Resource management has also been simplified, with easier security configurations, the administration of JDBC providers and J2C connection properties, simplified database connectivity, and the addition of shared library configuration to the application installation wizard. The enhanced cluster creation wizard now includes cluster member weight assignments. In WebSphere Application Server - Express, cell and node scopes have been added.

The V6.1 deployment manager enables both 6.x and 5.x servers to be created and federated.

Version 6.1 now features a standalone thin admin client that can be used to administer application servers remotely. It can be packaged as a JAR or OSGi bundle with a small footprint (see Resources), and offers increased flexibility if you want to create your own custom admin programs. The IBM HTTP Server can also now be managed from the admin console.


Security

WebSphere Application Server V6.1 is secured by default, providing peace of mind right from the start. Security is set up as part of the installation wizard (Figure 7). Right away, a default user registry is enabled out-of-the-box for better identity management, and a secure service integration bus enforces the use of secure transport protocols. Single sign-on support is offered for Windows environments.

Figure 7. WebSphere Application Server 6.1 security installation
Figure 7. WebSphere Application Server 6.1 security installation

Key and certificate management has been greatly enhanced in Version 6.1. Key management tools have been integrated into the administrative console, and the steps you needed to take to create a key have been cut almost in half. It is now easier to understand and use the SSL attributes. Management of Web server and plug-in certificates are now built into the console as well. A TrustManager is now available that can automatically trust hosts or signers. It is also much easier to refresh an expired certificate.

WebSphere Application Server V6.1 also includes WebSphere Identity Manager (WIM) (also included in WebSphere Portal, which provides basic identity, profile, and user information that can be used by JAAS). Figure 8 illustrates the WIM framework.

Figure 8. WebSphere Identity Manager
Figure 8. WebSphere Identity Manager

The scope of new security features and enhancements is described in more detail in What's new in security?


Edge components

Version 6.1 introduces new enhancements to various edge components, including:

  • Dynamic cache support with enhanced features.

  • Cache identification has been introduced with additional request parameters to facilitate application version caching.

  • Management capabilities, such as dynamic routing rules and clustering support, have been improved.

Figure 9. Edge components
Figure 9. Edge components

Common Criteria Assurance

WebSphere Application Server V6.1 is currently being evaluated for certification at Incremental Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) 4 by Common Criteria, an international standards body that provides standards for evaluating the effectiveness of delivering computer security functions, such as identification, authentication, and user data protection (see Resources).

Version 6.1 also supports IPv6 at the node level; both IPv4 and IPv6 nodes can be federated into the same cluster. A node can also be configured in "dual mode" to support both protocols:

Figure 10. WebSphere Application Server V6.1 support for IPv4 and IPv6
Figure 10. WebSphere Application Server V6.1 support for IPv4 and IPv6

WebSphere Application Server V6.0.2 obtained full certification in 2005, and Version 6.1 is designed to maintain that certification.


Conclusion

This article presented a high level overview of many new features and enhancements in WebSphere Application Server V6.1, a major release that offers dramatic improvements, plus simpler and more secure processing for Web applications, telecom applications, and service-oriented architectures. WebSphere Application Server V6.1 also offers tighter integration across the IBM software portfolio, and offers additional serviceability and self-help enhancements.


Acknowledgements

Substantial credit is due to Distinguished Engineer, Alan Brown, who provided the majority of the figures and content in this article. Additionally, Roland Barcia contributed several valuable insights. My thanks to Scott Shekerow for providing the opportunity to author this article.

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