Server Plan Gets Mixed Reviews

Microsoft is reportedly planning to bundle servers in an integrated package.

Microsoft Corp.s reported plan to integrate in a package its e-business applications is drawing praise and skepticism from customers and implementation partners.

Published reports indicate that the Redmond, Wash., software vendor plans to create an integrated package called Jupiter that contains the companys BizTalk application integration server, SharePoint Portal Server, Commerce Server, Content Management Server and Host Integration Server. Integration with Microsoft Great Plains business applications and a .Net development tool kit are also expected to be part of Jupiter.

A spokeswoman at Microsoft, which last month announced an integration pack joining SharePoint Portal Server and Content Management Server, declined to comment on the report, saying the company was still focusing on existing versions of those products. However, some partners are already applauding the strategy.

"Theyre not just bundling the products; theyre creating integrated pieces between the product sets," said William Dunn, president of Dunn Solutions Group, a Microsoft partner in Skokie, Ill. "Theyre creating a complete solution if the customer chooses to use them together."

Dunn said Jupiter would give Microsoft a competitive offering against other companies, such as IBM, BEA Systems Inc. and BroadVision Inc.—though likely at a more attractive price point.

"I really dont see a lot of negatives to this," said Dunn. "Theyre not forcing anyone to buy the bundles; you can buy just the products you need.

"This is part of Microsofts strategy to go upstream to the enterprise market and sell more packaged solutions. Well be able to go into a large midmarket company and offer them a complete end-to-end solution thats integrated," Dunn added.

Still, some raised questions about Microsofts strategy.

"At some point, combining all of these applications adds too much complexity when you consider that many companies have separate IT personnel for sales, marketing and fulfillment," said Dalton Franklin, CEO of Simplicity Technology Corp., a PC reseller in Nashville, Tenn., and a Commerce Server customer.

Dave Gipp, solution developer at Roganstreet Inc., a Web design company in Bozeman, Mont., and a Commerce Server 2000 customer, said Microsofts plan, while making it more of an enterprise player, could take it out of the midmarket.

"I think the new practice will serve to widen the gap between medium and large e-commerce customers," Gipp said. "Microsoft will lose many midsize businesses that have grown from the original BackOffice suite, and fewer beginning customers will get drawn into the Microsoft e-commerce world.

"I was on the edge with [Commerce Server 2000]," Gipp said. "This would definitely push me to a cheaper—and easier-to-implement—solution, a trade Id make for a slightly less industrial level of robustness."