On Nov. 1 IBM announced a cross-platform rollout of its new WebSphere Express line of products. IBM has recognized that small- and medium-size businesses need low-cost, easier-to-use products that can be leveraged by the thousands of companies that can't afford or don't have the technical expertise on staff to take advantage of its high-end WebSphere products.
I've had the privilege of meeting and discussing these products with senior IBM development and marketing people over the past several months, particularly the new "WebSphere Application Server Express" product that was recently announced and should begin shipping in January 2003.
The folks at IBM have turned IBM upside down and opened communication channels to customers and business partners alike to obtain input, product reviews, and help shape their direction. They realize that their current line of high-end WebSphere products (the Advanced Edition Application Server, Commerce, Portal and others) are some of the finest J2EE-related products on the planet and are bundled with an incredible set of features. But the products are difficult to install and configure, and they require a very specialized set of skills to use effectively. The current line of high-end WebSphere products has been extremely popular in very large organizations that have the expertise to exploit them.
The new Express line of WebSphere products focuses on the needs of smaller companies. They are designed to be quickly and easily installed, and they provide an immediate return on investment. Products such as the WebSphere Application Server Express product are bundled with a new set of development tools that are rich in wizards and aids to enable just about anyone to develop business applications.
For the past several years, IBM has focused on implementing state-of-the-art technological innovation and is now switching gears to focus on ease of use. This is a huge paradigm shift for IBM, taking it back to some of its founding principles, namely helping its customers solve business problems.
The development of the Express line of products is an ongoing process. The first releases of these products will provide an immediate benefit to customers using these products. We will see the product mature and reduce the technical complexities of the J2EE environment by providing more automation within the servers and development tools.
There are special programs available to software companies, system integrators or business partners where IBM will sell them special versions of its servers that can be bundled into their products with extremely attractive pricing.
IBM has focused on a cross-platform solution that leverages all of the operating systems and platforms that IBM supports. You might, for example, begin by developing applications on a low-cost Windows or Linux system and deploy it on a pilot basis. If you realize the ROI you are expecting, you can move your solution to an iSeries or other platform for the scalability and reliability of these robust machines. IBM is making a tremendous effort to ensure the portability of products within its WebSphere product line.
IBM understands that it needs input from customers to succeed in this market place. Unlike other software companies, IBM is providing an easy-to-use environment that is built for business customers. These products will take into consideration change control, security and the needs of CIOs, as well as enabling just about anyone within an organization to develop solutions.
To achieve this end, IBM is working with users to implement a new world wide electronic user group dedicated to business solutions and business system development. This new user group will be looking to charter local user groups and be a primary source of input to IBM developers on user needs and requirements.
The user group will be based on IBM's iSeries technology and will be built and maintained utilizing WebSphere technology. It will provide extensive "how to" information for managers and executives, Web designers and application developers. Keep an eye out of this unique user group.
About the author: Bob Cancilla is managing director of IGNITe/400, an electronic iSeries 400 Internet users group. He is also author of the book Getting Down to e-business with AS/400 and IBM eServer iSeries: Built for e-business.
- iSeries WebSphere strategy update: Improvements on the way
Site expert Jim Mason reviews IBM's new WebSphere strategy for version 5, which fixes many of the problems the version 4 strategy created. WebSphere IS becoming more widely used in iSeries shops, and this upgrade should make that happen faster, especially for midsize companies.
- WebSphere Express to replace Tomcat bundled with HTTP Server
With the addition of WebSphere Express, iSeries users will have a robust and sophisticated environment to migrate existing applications to Java and develop new applications. But more important is the possibility of IBM bundling it with OS/400, which could lead to simplifying the operating system, says Bob Cancilla.
- IBM initiative reaches out to mid-market
IBM has announced software, training and support initiatives to help business partners deliver IBM solutions to mid-sized companies. The first product, WebSphere Portal Express is due out in December. IBM will then release a database management system, plus Web access and security infrastructure software. Pricing is expected to be lower than IBM normally charges to large enterprises.
This was first published in December 2002