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IBM Responds to Microsoft's Jabs at WebSphere 4.0

IBM Responds to Microsoft's Jabs at WebSphere 4.0

In an exclusive to the WebSphere Developer's Journal News Desk, Stefan Van Overtveldt, program director, WebSphere Technical Marketing, IBM, commented on the IBM vs Microsoft debate that's been raging over the superiority of their respective platforms for creating Web services. He holds that Microsoft's original white paper belittling WebSphere 4.0 was fatally flawed from the start due to its premise, which, in his words, "is missing the point." Before Van Overtveldt's complete response, let's look at highlights of the verbal battle:

Microsoft launched the initial salvo with a white paper that compared the creation of Web services (using the PetStore.com scenario) using Visual Studio.NET versus IBM WebSphere v4.0. To support their claim that .NET has a significant advantage over WebSphere, Microsoft hired an independent consulting firm to develop a Web service with each platform. According to Microsoft, the results of this benchmarking exercise proved .NET the winner in developing Web services.

IBM responded with its WebSphere competitive review, (see www-3.ibm.com/software/info1/websphere/news/ ibmnews/compreview4.jsp?S_TACT=101CMW13&S_CMP=campaign) calling Microsoft’s white paper “misleading,” and firmly stating that “there is no doubt that WebSphere is the superior platform for developing Web services.” IBM pointed out that Microsoft’s study used the IBM Web Services Toolkit, when the Web service should have more appropriately been built using the new Web-Sphere Studio Application Developer tool. IBM also said Microsoft overstated by nearly six hours the amount of time needed to create the service with IBM WebSphere. Finally, IBM said that .NET needed 106 lines of handcrafted code compared to 1 line in WebSphere Studio, and that the total cost for constructing the Web service was lower with IBM.

Microsoft’s “Response to IBM” (at www.gotdotnet.com/team/compare/ibmrespond.aspx) minced no words: “IBM is attempting to mislead customers,” it stated in a point-by-point comparison of IBM’s claims and Microsoft’s positions on issues including cost of deploying the service, the number of lines of code needed to build and consume the Web service, the requirement of BizTalk server, the standards adhered to, and .NET’s ability to work in mixed environments. Microsoft did concede that IBM’s new WebSphere Studio Application Developer tool improves IBM’s support for building Web services, and Microsoft as a result issued a completely updated white paper comparing its product with that version (see www.gotdotnet.com/team/compare/webservicecompare.aspx). Microsoft has more background on its claims for the superiority of Visual .NET at http://msdn.microsoft.com/net/compare/default.asp.

For IBM’s counter-reply, our News Desk spoke with Stefan Van Overtveldt...
Stefan Van Overtveldt:
The premise of starting off with saying, “Let me show you how much more productive our development tools are by recreating the PetStore.com application in C# and with Visual Studio .NET,” is beside the point. PetStore.com is an application that’s been written to allow J2EE application vendors to test if all of the J2EE APIs are actually present and functioning well in their J2EE application server. That’s the only objective that PetStore.com ever had. This being said, because it does go out and test all of those different APIs, this is an application that is not well written at all. It’s not well written for performance. It’s not well written for security. It is just a test. Taking this application and pretending that it’s a real live application, and that the customers can draw conclusions with regards to productivity, performance, etc., is missing the point about what this application was intended to be.

When you look at trying to enable the application as a Web service not just from a development perspective but also from a deployment perspective (because, by the way, customers do want to deploy these Web services), we are still confident that we have tremendous productivity gains over any other application developer in the industry. If you look at what Web services are really all about, they’re not just about just taking an application and making it available through an XML SOAP interface or to a WSDL wrapper, etc. You have to look into what is this going to do towards your entire infrastructure, what’s the impact of opening up an application to the outside world, which is basically what you’re doing. The impact is that you need to put in stronger security mechanisms. You need to be sure you can handle the workload. You need to be sure that you can quickly leverage these Web services as part of existing applications or expose existing applications as Web services. It’s a much bigger picture than just taking an application and publishing it out as Web services.

You can debate different ways of doing this, but there’s only one company right now that offers a complete Web services infrastructure, and that’s IBM. We have Web services supported in our application servers. We have it in our development tools. We have a Web services infrastructure with regards to private UDDI gateways, for example, or private UDDI registries and UDDI gateway functionality. We have ways of managing Web services in a secure environment with a product like Tivoli Manager for Web services. We even have a number of technologies on the table that customers can use to take existing applications, not just stuff that was newly developed in C# or J2EE, but existing applications, applications that they’ve been using for years. Things like their SAP ERP systems, database applications, transactional applications running on IBM mainframe platforms, etc., and make those available very rapidly as Web services, again in the same managed and controlled environment. That is something no other company can offer.

ND: The use of the PetStore setup did seem problematic.
We can argue about which company or which tool is more productive in this scenario for years to come. Truth is, it’s beside the point. It’s not a representative application. It does not make a lot of sense to go out and recreate an application in another language and see if it performs better. If I were to rewrite this application, and believe me I’m not a good programmer, it would probably perform better.

ND: One issue aside from performance that Microsoft was slamming IBM on was cost. IBM’s first response to Microsoft said a 4-server deployment using Microsoft .NET would cost about $399,996. Microsoft’s response to that was IBM “is just wrong. IBM is attempting to mislead customers.” Microsoft went on to say that WebSphere 4.0 costs over 15 times more that Microsoft .NET for this typical clustered scenario.
Well, if nobody is accessing the cluster, they’re probably right. The WebSphere licensing is based on buying an application server, and we have a per-processor licensing scheme, and you can put those applications, it’s $12,000 list price per processor, in a cluster. So, if you have a 4-node cluster, for example, that would cost you again at list price, $48,000. Throw in 10 developer seats around and you’re looking at a total solution of around $80,000. But that is it. Whether that solution is serving one concurrent user or it’s serving 100,000 concurrent users, the price remains the same. We don’t have the notion of access licensing. If you count how the developer license works, if you count on actually putting those applications in production, not just showing a demo of it, you have hundreds, thousands of other applications out on the Internet accessing that Web service, then the Microsoft solution is a lot more expensive. It’s just because it’s a completely different way of counting licenses.

ND: That’s what’s accounting for the cost differential: how they’re approaching their cost basis?

SVO: This is the same thing that goes back to Pet Store. Pet Store is a lab type of application, something you would never put in production. And that has a number of consequences. If you set up this type of environment, in a lab environment, to calculate what it costs you, maybe Microsoft has a point. Maybe they don’t. But if you put it into a production environment where you have to start accounting for a number of concurrent accesses to these servers, we are very sure that our solution is much more cost-effective.

ND: The last point Microsoft emphasized in their most recent response had been regarding code. Microsoft said that to create a PetStore Web service, IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer required 82 handcrafted lines of code and Visual Studio .NET required 48, about half; and to create simple client to consume Pet Store Web service, IBM required 49 lines of handcrafted code; Visual Studio .NET, 24. Now, is that still a function of Pet Store’s being atypical of a real-life application code-writing situation?
Again, I did not personally run those tests. The one point I can make is that most of the ability we have in Web Studio Application Developer is to take an existing J2EE application and render it as Web services fully automatic. Now is there some hand coding involved and is it 48/24 lines of code, double in our scenario? I don’t know. What I do see is that taking this application and making it available as Web services is, again, only part of what you need to do. Because you need to link this application to a security environment, which Pet Store does not do, by the way. You need to link this application to a management environment, which Pet Store does not do. With WebSphere Studio Application Developer we can do all of those things pretty much in an automated fashion. You may need to write some line of code here and there, but that is a much more realistic scenario to look at. I am absolutely convinced that if you look at what are the real overall requirements that you actually to put a Web service in production our development tools are much more effective and much more productive than any other tool out there.

The larger question is, which platform are customers choosing to deploy Web services? Giga Information Group just issued a report saying that J2EE platforms are the big winners overall among early adopters of Web services technology and the most important to Web services strategy. When it comes to companies that are actually evaluating and deploying this, Giga says IBM WebSphere is the clear favorite over Microsoft. In the end, it is the market that is deciding, and according to Giga, customers favor WebSphere over .NET.

Microsoft Replies to IBM...
Gregory Leake, Group Product Manager, Microsoft Corporation, offered this response:

I am writing about your article titled “IBM Responds to Latest Microsoft Jabs at WebSphere 4.0.” In this article, you interview IBM’s Stefan Van Overtveldt, program director, WebSphere Technical Marketing.

In the interest of facts and truth, I would like to correct Mr. Van Overtveldt on a couple of points, and present a Microsoft response to his interview and the article.

First, I want to point out that the .NET Pet Shop comparison to the Java Pet Store is separate from the Web Services comparison between .NET and IBM WebSphere 4.0. Both comparisons can be found at www.gotdotnet.com/team/compare. The article and the interview discuss both comparisons as if they are the same.

So let’s separate them and look at the bulk of what Mr. Van Overtveldt says about each.

1. With regard to the .NET Pet Shop comparison, he says that:

“PetStore.com is an application that has been written to allow J2EE application vendors to test if all of the J2EE APIs are actually present and functioning well in their J2EE application server. That’s the only objective that PetStore.com ever had…. this is an application that is not well written at all. It’s not well written for performance. It’s not well written for security…. Taking this application and pretending that it’s a real live application, and that the customers can draw conclusions with regards to productivity, performance, etc., is missing the point about what this application was intended to be.”

This is wrong. The Java Pet Store (Petstore.com) is held up by Sun Microsystems as a primary blueprint application for J2EE that illustrates “best practice architecture” and “best coding practices…for enterprise applications.” It has an entire Sun blueprint Web site dedicated to it as a sample application for customers to follow. Sun has even published a Sun Blueprint-series book all about the Pet Store as a design pattern for enterprise applications, and has been telling enterprise developers to follow it for building scalable, reliable applications since Java One in May 2001. Furthermore, IBM appeared on stage with Sun and other J2EE vendors to endorse the Pet Store application at Java One in May 2001, and even demonstrated it running in WebSphere 4.0 in front of thousands of developers as a best practice enterprise application. And furthermore, they ship it in the IBM WebSphere 4.0 product as a sample application for developers to follow. So it is very disingenuous for IBM to come out now and say it is a bad application and should not be used to compare with .NET. They are all of a sudden singing a very different tune based on the release of the .NET Pet Shop. Sun has also now come out and said that the design pattern is valid, but it is not designed to be high performance. In response, we find it a highly questionable customer practice to publish a “best practice enterprise design pattern” and not ensure it will result in high performance applications. In short, if this is the case, shame on Sun for publishing it and promoting it as an enterprise design pattern to begin with. They should either rewrite it, pull it from the Web and their blueprint series published books, or stand behind it. As for the benchmark of the Pet Store application, I would like to point out that the benchmark was originally conducted by Oracle as part of their Java Performance Challenge. So in this way a major J2EE vendor invited the comparison. In the end, I think the comparison is quite valid, and the competition is healthy for customers and the various vendors involved. Right now, the .NET Pet Shop remains uncontested as far as published versions of the Pet Store go, with one quarter the amount of code required to build vs. the Java version, and offering 28 times better performance and over 8 times better scalability. We are very happy to meet IBM, Oracle, or other J2EE vendors in an independent shootout for verification of the performance results.

2. With regard to our .NET vs IBM Web Services comparison, the bulk of the interview seems to focus on the license cost comparison. Here again, Mr. Van Overtveldt is misleading customers, since he claims that our cost comparison does not take into account client access fees associated with the deployment. I would like to point out that we fully take into account client access licenses in the cost comparison, and that he is simply misinformed on this topic. Mr. Van Overtveldt claims a 4-server WebSphere deployment would cost a fixed amount no matter how many clients access the WebSphere server. He states that the MS cost, however, may be lower out of the gate, but would be higher and grow depending on the number of clients accessing the site. This, he claims, is because the client access licenses required for Windows 2000 Server drive up the cost for .NET as more users connect. This is wrong. In fact, we have included a Windows 2000 Server Internet Connector License in our cost calculation, which includes *unlimited* authenticated client access to the .NET Web Service in question. So we fully stand behind our cost comparison, no matter how many users are connected and using the Web Service. For a 4-server deployment with 8 CPUs per server, IBM WebSphere 4.0 would cost $12,000 per CPU or a total of $384,000. Microsoft .NET would cost $3,999 (W2K Advanced Server) + $1,999 (Internet Connector License) = $5,998 per server for a total of $23,992, no matter how many clients use the W2K site. Mr. Van Overtveldt should make a point of understanding the MS licensing cost before misrepresenting it, and IBM should correct their public document because it is wrong. IBM WebSphere 4.0 costs 15 times more than Microsoft .NET in the example analyzed, which is very typical of a real customer deployment configuration in the enterprise.


In response, Microsoft claimed IBM's spokesman "is misleading customers" about .NET pricing and calls for an "independent shootout" to resolve .NET vs WebSphere performance comparisons
Microsoft group product manager Greg Leake asserted that his opposite number at IBM was "misinformed" and that IBM was "misrepresenting" the licensing costs applied by Microsoft when claiming that the client access licenses required for Windows 2000 Server drive up the cost for .NET as more users connect. "IBM WebSphere 4.0 costs 15 times more than Microsoft .NET in the example analyzed," maintains Leake.

He also refuted the position taken by IBM's Stefan Van Overtveldt, program director, WebSphere Technical Marketing, that IBM is missing the point when using the Petstore.com application to make comparisons between J2EE and .NET.

On the contrary, says Leake, "The Java Pet Store (Petstore.com) is held up by Sun Microsystems as a primary blueprint application for J2EE that illustrates 'best practice architecture' and 'best coding practices…for enterprise applications'… Furthermore, IBM appeared on stage with Sun and other J2EE vendors to endorse the Pet Store application at Java One in May 2001, and even demonstrated it running in WebSphere 4.0 in front of thousands of developers as a best practice enterprise application."

It's "very disingenuous," Leake insisted, "for IBM to come out now and say it is a bad application and should not be used to compare with .NET." "We are very happy to meet IBM, Oracle, or other J2EE vendor in an independent shootout for verification of the performance results," concludes Leake.

IBM's Van Overtveldt Comments on WebSphere vs .NET Debate... "Let the Market Decide"
On January 15, 2002, responding to the open letter from Microsoft"s Greg Leake, IBM's Stefan Van Overtveldt commented:

IBM and Microsoft can fight about benchmarks forever, but what matters most is what customers and developers are doing. .NET only supports Windows and other Microsoft technologies, while IBM offers tools like Eclipse and WebSphere Studio that are truly cross-platform and open standards-based. At the end of the day, it is obviously going to be hard to prove in a discussion like this whether one tool or another is more productive. The people that will make that call are the developers out there writing the code, and developers would rather have a choice of platform and vendors.

We believe that it's all about real-world scenarios, not about just one application like petstore.com. Developers and organizations will pick the environment and tools that provide the lowest total cost of ownership, while matching their particular systems requirements. Most companies don't just rely on Windows but have to work with heterogeneous systems like Unix, mainframes, etc. - which is why IBM's tools are ideal. Let the market decide.

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WebSphere Journal News Desk trawls the world of e-commerce technologies for news and innovations and presents IT professionals with updates on technology trends, products, and services in the WebSphere family.

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