Update:WebSphere 9 is available on IBM Cloud Blumix, in case you are interested.
JAVA SE7 Support
Java 7 is supported in WAS 8.5 version. Now you have the flexibility to switch between Java 6 and 7. This helps a developer to take advantage of Java 7 features in an application deployed on WebSphere environment.
Application Deployment using “Monitored Directory”
Very handy for developers to drop the code in monitored directory so a server can pick the changes and deploy them automatically.
High-Performance Extensible Logging (HPEL) is binary logging to improve the server performance. HPEL is faster than text logging.
Inbuilt Health Management
You can take advantage of health management to monitor the conditions and take necessary actions. You may create health policies to identify the potential issues and take proactive action to avoid/minimize the application downtime.
It’s dynamic profile to enhance the delivery experience. It’s faster than any other WebSphere profile and starts in less than 5 seconds. The liberty profile in 8.5 leverages OSGi (Open Services Gateway Initiative) that has very small application server memory footprint.
ODR (On Demand Routing) component is a java-based proxy server that handles incoming requests and distributes across the WebSphere application server environment.
Dynamic Cluster is the new Intelligent Management feature, which enables WebSphere to dynamically stop, start and allocate resource as and when required.
EJB 3.1 Compatibility
EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) 3.1 is supported from starting WebSphere 8 version.
JDBC 4.1 Compatibility
JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) 4.1 is supported in WebSphere 8.5.5 version.