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January 17, 2022

Exploring IBM WebSphere Application Server

Java Application Development

Is IBM WebSphere the right application server for your organization and your needs? Curious about the features, benefits, and drawbacks of this commonly used platform? This blog covers all the details so you have the information you need in one convenient place. 

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What Is IBM WebSphere Application Server? 

The WebSphere Application Server (known also as a WAS) is a Java server runtime environment for Java enterprise applications available in traditional and Liberty version.

One of the more popular application servers is IBM WebSphere (WAS). WebSphere has been around for quite a while (since 1998) and it boasts an impressive feature set. It’s scalable, has solid and supported implementations of the Java EE and Enterprise OSGi, and it’s an industry standard, so it has reusable information in future jobs.

The IBM WebSphere Platform

When it comes to WebSphere, many people  think that it's simply the application server — but in fact, it's a lot more than that. WebSphere as a whole is more of a platform that transforms the way businesses manage relationships between customers, partners, and employees. The platform provides you tools to create a feature-rich web application, such as electronic marketplaces. 

The WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Liberty are available for multiple platforms and operating systems, such as Windows or Linux.

Is IBM WebSphere Application Server Free?

For those who want to try WebSphere to find out if it is the best choice, IBM offers both the traditional WebSphere and WebSphere Liberty to download for free. This comes with no support and no usage restrictions and is valid for a trial period of 60 days. 

Single developers can use both WebSphere and WebSphere Liberty for free as long as it is used on a single-developer machine. This application server is intended mainly for individual or small company use, as long as the total cumulative JVM heap space across all running instances at their company doesn't exceed 2 gigabytes. In both cases, there is no formal support from IBM. 

Example IBM WebSphere Application Server Architecture 

Underneath WAS, there is a sophisticated system of connected components that defines the architecture. 

The diagram below is taken from the official WAS documentation and shows a single application server installation. As you can see, there are many components involved in the server. View all the components and their explanations. Let's look at a few of the components from the diagram. 


What is the architecture of WebSphere Application Server? - Quora

1. Web Container

This is the crucial part of WebSphere where web application components run. Every servlet, JSP file, and other server-side files are processed here. Every web container has a web server, which is responsible for the transport chain and serving HTTP requests. 

2. Messaging Engine

The key component included within WebSphere is messaging engine, which in this case is based on the JMS and JCA specifications, which provides the ability to work with asynchronous requests as messages. The messaging engine is automatically created for every newly added application server or a server cluster. 

3. EJB Container

Another important component of application servers is the EJB container. The EJB container provides a run-time environment for enterprise beans within the application server. With the WebSphere Admin Console, covered below, you can easily adjust the EJB container settings, such as passivation directory or EJB cache settings. 

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Notable WebSphere Application Server Features and Benefits 

IBM WebSphere has a number of notable benefits:

  • It's a highly scalable server environment

  • It's well-known software that has been on the market for several years

  • It's continuously updated

In the past few years, new components were added so that the journey to the cloud environments is even easier. In this article, let's examine three following features and benefits: MicroProfile Support, WebSphere Admin Console, and IBM Cloud integration. 

MicroProfile Support

For anyone who prefers working with MicroProfile technologies, we have some good news! MircoProfile is fully supported in the WebSphere Liberty application, and you can check all supported technologies. MicroProfile is a collection of specifications for Java cloud-native microservices. Check out more on MicroProfile.

WebSphere Admin Console

This is a huge benefit when compared to the lightweight application server. With WebSphere, you can control all settings from the Application Server Administrative Console.


Graphical user interface, application

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Some of the features that are available include security settings, application deployment, and performance overview. Alternatively, you can manage multiple servers under WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment. 

IBM Cloud Integration

If you don’t want to host the application server on your infrastructure, you can always use a cloud provider. IBM Cloud is another service that the company offers, and it supports many things, including the WebSphere. You can decide whether you install the traditional or Liberty WebSphere Application Server. Going with this option can make sense where you prefer to have everything from one supplier. 

The IBM Cloud has support for multi-cloud environments, enhanced security, and flexible licensing models.  

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When to Use WebSphere Application Server 

If you have a plan to create sophisticated e-commerce business web applications with demand on high availability, security and performance, WAS can be a good candidate as it provides even more than that. Another crucial point to remember is support. With WAS, you can get support, but keep in mind it is a paid service. 

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When Not to Use WebSphere Application Server

Small to medium sized projects usually do not require all the features available in WebSphere, so going with the more lightweight solutions can be a preferable choice. More lightweight solutions can also lower expenses on infrastructure. Another potential thing to consider is the risk of vendor lock-in when investing in WebSphere. 

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Final Thoughts

Consider IBM WebSphere if you're an independent developer or work for a small organization and need an application server for a sophisticated e-commerce business. This server is reputable, secure, and easily available. However, keep in mind that although support is available for traditional WebSphere and WebSphere Liberty users, it is a paid service. 

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Additional Resources

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