IBM’s award winning software takes the stand: Wellcome Wing, Science Museum, 27 Jan 2005

- How do some of the world’s biggest banks accurately carry out billions of transactions each and every day?
- How does an international supermarket chain monitor the temperature of all its fridges in all its stores from one central office?
- How does a travel company co-ordinate thousands of on-line flights and hotel bookings from all over the world?

The answer to these questions and more – such as how cashpoint transactions are processed – will be revealed in an exciting new interactive Science Museum display, in the guise of a giant CD, on Thursday 27 January 2005.

The display illustrates how the solution lies in a range of software developed by IBM, named IBM WebSphere MQ (Message/Queue). The new display celebrates the vision of the IBM UK engineers who pioneered WebSphere MQ software.

In doing so, they created the core solution to a myriad of business computing challenges and paved the way for e-business. So successful and elegant is WebSphere MQ software that the IBM team has won the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for innovation in engineering.

“It’s only when you realise how many IT systems have to talk to one another when you do something like using a cashpoint that you start to appreciate the value of this innovation,” says Dr Robin Paul FREng, Chairman of the MacRobert Award Judging Panel. “IBM’s engineers have effectively created the oil that keeps the world’s
e-commerce machine running.”

IBM WebSphere MQ was originally conceived 14 years ago by IBM’s Dr Tony Storey FREng and Tim Holloway. They came up with the simple, but innovative, idea to design a highly reliable link between computers that uses different programming languages – regardless of their location.

Maintaining that it would be better to connect existing systems, rather than embark on a stream of complex upgrades and integration, the WebSphere MQ pioneers addressed the concern facing businesses that they were becoming increasingly dependent on a proliferation of incompatible systems.

Launched commercially in 1994, IBM WebSphere MQ integrates servers, back office systems and databases for all sorts of businesses, reliably handling hundreds of millions of messages every day. But, like all simple ideas, the programming was not easy to implement and the team faced huge challenges along the way.

Challenges included supporting 40 different computing platforms, as well as having to transfer the original system to the Internet. But they achieved it, and continue to improve on the original design, so that today IBM WebSphere MQ is now virtually ubiquitous in business IT and used by more than 10,000 companies worldwide, including 90 per cent of companies in the Fortune 100.

Graham Spittle, Vice President, Business Integration Development and Director, IBM Hursley Laboratory said: “WebSphere MQ is an example of IBM’s innovation at its best. The IBM team took a great idea, overcame an enormous engineering challenge and maximised its potential for business. This new exhibit successfully captures WebSphere MQ’s impact on everyday life and its role as a cornerstone for today’s e-business world."

Applications for IBM WebSphere MQ continue to grow – such as connecting sensors, RFID and telemetry. Pervasive messaging is invaluable across a wide range of applications that include: supply chain tracking; oil and gas pipeline monitoring; power consumption assessment; lab reporting; vehicle tracking and diagnostics; and remote vending machine monitoring.

Notes for editors

  1. The team from IBM’s Hursley Laboratory near Winchester who won the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award are:

    Tim Holloway, IBM Distinguished Engineer
    Peter Lambros, Senior Technical Staff Member
    Peter Niblett, Senior Technical Staff Member
    Graham Spittle, IBM Vice President and Director of the Hursley Laboratory
    Dr Tony Storey FREng, IBM Fellow
  2. The MacRobert Award, first presented in 1969, honours the winning company with a gold medal and the team members with a prize of £50,000. The presentation of the Award recognises the successful development of innovative ideas in engineering. It seeks to demonstrate the importance of engineering and the role of engineers and scientists in contributing to national prosperity and international prestige.
  3. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Joe Hanley at IBM UK tel +44 (0) 20 8844 6972
Kirsten Harvey at the Science Museum tel +44 (0)20 7942 4352