IBM WebSphere Integration User Group

IBM Forum London by HOK

IBM Forum, London, designed by HOK (
Photo courtesy of HOK

Integration architects and solutions designers interested in IBM’s WebSphere technology stack converged once again for the Spring (!) gathering 2013 WUG at IBM Forum Centre, South Bank, London on  21 March.  I was one of them.

Trends in the WebSphere Ecosystem – Innovation/Evolution

From my perspective, WebSphere seem to retain good ground mainly due to innovation & adaptation of the upcoming technologies in it’s stride. Catering for Mobile & The Cloud areas as well as fulfilling existing customer/partner’s needs by adding features. There was good interest shown by participants on applicability of WebSphere technologies in the Mobile world.

To be honest, I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic about this, as I’m hoping that the promise shown in the WebSphere brand needs to be realised to it’s potential by the end-users/customers.

Without innovation & evolution into these emerging technology areas, WebSphere brand will probably sustain existing customer base for some years but then could’ve started going down hill. Customers will always have changing needs/requirements to adapt & harness the potential of emerging technologies which if isn’t catered for, will result in them having to resort to alternative solutions – maybe slowly, but surely!

I’d like to share some highlights based on sessions I attended:

WebSphere MQ in the Mobile world (notably: WMQ Support for Web Sockets) WebSockets as we know is a two-way messaging (full duplex) protocol, part of HTML 5 & notably provides the facility to perform push notification from Server to browser (not the pseudo pushes as a result of polling etc.). Remember MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport), a simple & lightweight messaging protocol? It’s been there for quite a number of years associated with real world applications (Sensors, Machine-To-Machine usage etc.) and been associated with WebSphere MQ from V7.1.

As the puts it succinctly: It is a publish/subscribe, designed for constrained devices and low-bandwidth, high-latency or unreliable networks. The design principles are to minimise network bandwidth and device resource requirements whilst also attempting to ensure reliability and some degree of assurance of delivery.

So, combining the two together (MQTT due to its reliable & light-weight nature & WebSockets due to its full duplex nature) usually involves doing extra work on both sides (at the least, on the client side if using a Messaging server that supports MQTT).

From WebSphere MQ Version the support for WebSocket is built-in!

  • Highly Scalable
  • Secure Push Notifications

This eliminates the need for a client library and hence the Web Browser (or any Web app based on HTML 5/WebSockets) could now be used to send and receive messages, Publish/Subscribe directly from WMQ. This effectively provides a wider range of options for mobile web apps too (based on HTML 5/WebSockets) for reliable messaging, Subscriptions etc. Seamless integration through the Messaging Server to the whole enterprise and beyond (ESB, Cloud, Third party Systems etc.).


  • Browsers should support WebSockets – some do & some don’t
  • Some work (scripting etc.) still needs doing on client side (e.g. JavaScript), that will manage the WebSockets connection. Apparently this (JavaScript Client Library) and other client libraries (C, .Net etc.) would be provided by IBM as part of WMQ (I was told by the presenter).
  • SSL/TLS adds significant network overhead – so use of wss needs careful consideration particularly in constrained/low-bandwidth scenarios.

Extra Bits

  • A Browser based dashboard with close to real-time reporting (a dynamic/active speed-dial display, using the JavaScript WebSockets Client library) connecting to a WMQ Server subscribing to a topic (For selective data feed on system performance characteristics CPU / Memory etc.)
  • The other (more interesting one) an EXCEL Spreadsheet with specific Cells populated by Macros (uses .Net WebSockets Client Library behind, I think) providing a similar dynamic/active speed-dial display. A MQ Server Push ending up in an Excel Spreadsheet!
  • FaceBook Messenger uses MQTT as their underlying messaging protocol.

WebSphere Message Broker 8 & DFDL Support

A gist of features, some of which were really interesting (from a value addition/diversified usage point of view):

Built-in WebSphere ExtremeScale caching

  • ExtremeScale caching: A Grid based (infinite hash map) caching technology that apparently have proved to provide a very high degree of scaling/elasticity for business class applications.
  • Use of recommended patterns such as Application State Store Pattern (Scale-up/scale-down: is more suited for a cloud based solution improving App Server Elasticity), Side-Caching Pattern (for a Gateway style implementation) provides a robust caching facility thus eliminating the need for custom/non-standard caching solutions.
  • Caching available at Broker, Execution Group, Flow, Node levels.

Worklight integration, provision of patterns for mobile services & Toolkit support for conversion from WMB service to Mobile service e.g. Mobile service created using specific pattern can Receive data in JSON and covert to native Broker format.

.NET Integration

  • Ability to directly invoke .NET programs through the CLR
  • C#, VB.NET natively added to WMB
  • .NET Assemblies into BAR files

Patterns based development - Provides a set of pre-built templates (based on best practice) & ability to create user defined patterns for reuse. Also, a web based pattern generation facility allows end users (which not much knowledge of WMB development) to configure and deploy these patterns directly onto broker.

DFDL Parser & Modelling Support: DFDL (Data Format Description Language) is a modelling language for describing text & binary data in a standard way (as data formats). Is is quite powerful as a variety of data formats (including industry Standard formats) are supported and it can be used for: Text, Binary & Bit level data, Fixed length, delimited, patterned, Bi-directional data, Nil & Out of range values etc.

As its a standard DFDL format is portable, editable & can be generated using tools – similar to XSD for XML data. DFDL builds upon W3C XML Schema 1.0 and uses a subset of XML Schema elements to model non-XML (text/binary data).

MRM Message Sets were used in earlier WMB days to model text/binary data. DFDL Support in WMB provides a powerful & standardised way to model & process data.

  • DFDL Parser (On-demand & streaming) is available for both ESQL & Java nodes.
  • Graphical Editor with Guided Wizards for DFDL modelling in Message Broker Toolkit.
  • DFDL SChema deployed as part of BAR file onto Broker, so no separate dictionary files to manage.

 Other WMB Features Worth noting:

  • Lineage of Data Analysis & Cross-tool data analysis using Infosphere Metadata Workbench
  • Improved Web Administration Console to send control commands (If my guess is right this should be using MQTT behind the scenes) with Role based access. Also, provides a public REST based management API.
  • Built-in Audit of Messages/data flowing through – persistence to DB2 and Oracle supported – MS SQL Server not supported.
  • Built-in Record, Capture & Replay Messages/Data facility using single or Multiple Brokers.
  • Simplified Cloud Provisioning through IBM PureSystems.

 ….and many more!

PS  I’ve also posted this on my personal blog

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I also had the opportunity to attend the    Websphere User Group (WUG) meeting on 23rd March 2011 at Bedfont Lakes. The WUG is a very popular topic amongst colleagues at Smart421 as its a great community

As someone who doesn’t have much direct WebSphere experience on a day-to-day basis, I was wondering if I would struggle to follow the content. However, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised as the tracks were designed for a variety of skills levels. There were several talks that any Java developer would find interesting. There were actually 13 streams running over the course of the day. Many focused on specific IBM products (as you’d expect) but also some focused on more general topics such as Java, and OSGi.

The first session I attended was the WebSphere Foundation Update and Technical Direction in the WAS 1 stream. This session by Ian Robinson gave an overview of forthcoming features in WAS v8. While this was a very WAS specific session it also provided useful updates on several areas in the J2EE space. To download the slides, click here.

The second session I attended was in the WAS 2 stream on JAX-WS 2.2 and JAX-RS 1.1 support in WebSphere Application Server Version 8.0 Beta . The presenter, Katherine Sanders, a software engineer at IBM Hursley,  gave a very good introduction to these two technologies without being tempted to delve into a lot of overly-heavy WAS-specific details. To download the slides, click here.

The third session I attended was given by Simon Cashmore, a Lead Engineer within the Global Middleware team at Barclays Bank.  This talk, Changing the way Java Application Hosting is delivered at Barclays Bank , stood out by a mile as it was the only session in the Customer stream (c’mon WUG Committee, more like this please). It was informative because it focused on Barclays’ new approach to hosting Java applications. Barclays have essentially built their own collection of virtualised WAS instances that can be made available in days rather than weeks or months. Previously, projects would buy brand new hardware that was not shared or reused, so costs and timescales were sky high. Now they have a shared resource that can be used and reused much more efficiently – and more cost effectively. I’m sure Barclays shareholders will be very pleased to hear that  ;o)

The fourth and final session I attended was a talk in the Java stream on Generational Garbage Collection: Theory and Best Practices. This was focused on how the IBM JVM works, but Chris Bailey, a technical architect in the Java Technology Center (JTC) team at IBM Hursley, gave a very detailed description of it which applies to any JVM that implements Generational Garbage Collection. To get a copy of Chris’ slides, click here.

So if you’re in doubt whether you should attend a WUG meeting because you feel don’t have enough WebSphere experience then let me reassure you that any Java developer will find something of interest. There were also suggestions of adding a more business focused stream to future meetings to widen the potential audience even more.

Details of all WUG activities and events can be found here.

WUG 10th Birthday Celebrations, IBM Bedfont 23 March 2011

Members of the WUG Board, past and present, cut the birthday cake. From left to right: Nigel Gale (founding Chairman), Simon Maple (IBM Representa tive), Alan Chambers (WUG founder and Board member), Chris Mason (Treasurer throughout the WUG's 10 years), and Jonathan Marshall (IBM Representa tive). Photo by kind permission of Alan Chambers.

On 23 March, over 200 members of the WebSphere User Group UK (WUG) and members of the WebSphere Integration User Group UK  descended on IBM Bedfont Lakes, Feltham, UK for the WUG’s spring-time gathering (2 annual meetings; March at Bedfont, September at Edinburgh). Smart421 was there with one or two of our bigs guns. More on that in a moment.

As longstanding members of the WUG, we get a lot out of these meetings - perhaps ‘cos we also put  lot in. A significant number of our customer engagements require deep Java skills and several depend on WebSphere technologies in some way or another. Most speakers are IBM-ers, many out of Hursley, or sometimes further afield. Delegates from IBM, end-users of WebSphere and IBM business partners make up the remainder of the rich ‘ecosystem’ that is today’s WUG.

Smart421 Lead Consultant, Stu Smith, had his proposal selected by the Committee, which carried the catchy little title ‘Software Development Life-cycle with Message Broker in end-to-end SOA’ [Download the slides]. Nevertheless, Stu pulled a bigger crowd than usual with his piece and people seemed to appreciate his content and the very good Q&A session he triggered; for the last session of the day, it was a lively interactive exchange among attendees, who by then probably had their minds on the drinks reception or what they had to do to catch the early train home.

Alan Mangroo, one of our elite tekkies, attended for the educational tracks and was last seen diving in and out of sessions he has pre-selected. Knowing him, he’ll have made copious notes, so try to make a point of reading his separate blog [posted 08 April, click here].

The WUG has been running for ten years in the UK (yeah…I know !) and the Committee didn’t run past the opportunity to celebrate with drinks and two rather impressive cakes to mark the occasion. I’ve included a photo, courtesy of Alan Chambers, so you can share the moment with us. Proof –  if ever you needed it – that even tekkies have soul, so long as you bring the candles ;o)    Actually, I only remember cute miniature marzipan figures: developers with laptops.

As is often the case, Smart421 ran a on-stand prize draw for a bottle of Bollinger and appropriately Nigel Gale, the WUG’s first chairman (pictured, far left), was the one who swooped the 1st prize. Good timing I’d say. Hope you enjoy that, Nigel.


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