IBM Takes Aim at BEA With New E-Biz System

IBM today unveiled a WebSphere-powered e-business system aimed at small and midsize enterprises as part of an aggressive push to take the market share lead in e-business platforms from BEA Systems Inc.

The eServer iSeries Powered by WebSphere is designed to bring high-end performance to a small and medium-size business market—which includes companies with up to 1,000 employees—that IBM predicts will represent 52 percent of the total global server market by 2004.

"We are trying to establish absolute leadership in the e-business platform [market]," said Scott Hebner, director of market for WebSphere software for IBM. "We are narrowing in on an area where BEA has traditionally been strong."

IBM has been serving the SMB market—which includes about 11,000 companies nationwide, Hebner said—with the eServer iSeries, which is designed to give smaller companies e-business capabilities at a lower cost and with easier management and ISV support. It also offered standards-based technologies such as Java 2 Enterprise Edition, XML (Extensible Markup Language), and Web services and support for Linux, Java, Window and Unix applications.

The new offering comes preloaded with WebSphere Application Server Version 4 software and WebSphere application development tools, which had been primarily targeted at larger enterprises. It also comes with a new wizard designed to make the software easy to install and configure and has other technologies, such as personalization, portals and wireless capabilities, that can be added on to the basic unit as the need arises.

The new offering will be available later this year. Pricing will be announced at a later date.

Hebner said the new offering is part of a multiprong approach to the SMB application server market, which also includes recent partnership announcements with such companies as Akamai Technologies Inc. and eBay Inc. The Armonk, N.Y., company is in a good position to make this push, particularly since its WebSphere business grew by 75 percent in the third quarter over last year, he said.

Hebner also pointed to a recent Giga Group Inc. report that showed BEA with 36 percent of the e-business platform market and IBM with 34 percent. In June 2000, a similar report showed BEA with 32 percent and IBM with 16 percent, he said.

A recent report from Gartner Inc. showed that BEA has a 41 percent of the market, compared with 31 percent for IBM.

Early next year IBM will introduce the next version of WebSphere that will include easier use and entry-level offerings, including zero-cost administration. "You just install and go," Hebner said.