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IBM: A WebSphere portal in every pot

In its relentless pursuit of the midrange customer, IBM introduces yet another "Express" offering. This time its WebSphere Portal - Express for the iSeries.

IBM today announced an Express version of its WebSphere Portal with support for the iSeries.

The new version, which builds off of WebSphere Portal 5.02, will enable iSeries users to integrate existing 5250 applications, collaborative applications, and Java and WebSphere solutions, as well as PC-based applications, into a single Web site. The new version is expected to be released Dec. 4.

WebSphere Portal Express for the iSeries also has wizards to ease installation, configuration and management of Web sites, as well as integration with other servers, such as HTTP servers and LDAP servers.

While the news isn't much of a surprise to the iSeries community, this announcement is another example of IBM's relentless pursuit to consolidate and integrate its product line and target the midrange market, experts say.

A portal provides a single point of access to information. Portals allow businesses to operate more efficiently by letting people access information and communicate across different systems in real time via a Web browser.

IBM has had a WebSphere Portal product for the iSeries for nearly a year, but the company admits that the product may have been too expensive for some midrange iSeries shops. IBM's Express products are scaled-down versions of its enterprise products with more attractive price points targeted at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). This Express version could clear the way for iSeries shops to expand their Web initiatives.

"Some customers had a hard time justifying the price," said John Quarantello, IBM's eServer solutions marketing manager.

The Express version is significantly less of an investment at $85 per user, or $33,000 per CPU, compared with $80,000 for the Enterprise version. In addition, IBM is offering iSeries i825 customers 20 licenses for WebSphere Portal Express, at no additional charge.

The price point with the Express version is more attractive, Quarantello said, and, yes, IBM does expect to see an increase in interest from iSeries customers.

"There are a fair number who say they wouldn't have made the investment before," he said. "I think we have now filled that need."

The announcement comes on the heels of a slew of consolidation and integration announcements, including other WebSphere Portal enhancements. Last week, IBM said WebSphere Portal 5.02 will have many of the capabilities found in Lotus Workplace Web Content Management. These capabilities allow users to create, publish, manage and archive Web-based content in Internet and corporate intranet environments.

Earlier this month, IBM announced a consolidation of its Workplace line, the company's open standards platform. It also added a number of new offerings to its Express line, including a version of its DB2 Content Manager system and DB2 Content Manager for Linux.

IBM is responding to what it views as a major shift in the market, from "stovepipe" environments that represent a mess of technologies, to an integrated, full-functioning plug-in solution, says Kevin Fogarty, an analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc.

He adds that this new WebSphere Portal Express offering for the iSeries isn't so much about the iSeries. It's about meeting that demand by pushing WebSphere onto the front end of the IT infrastructure.

"It's all part of the same series of interrelated trends of integration and ease of use," Fogarty said. "People want to buy things and have them work. They want it simple and easy to use. They're not focused on the technology but on the business function, and they want to do it cost-effectively."

The big loser in all of this could be IBM's staunchest competitor in the space, San Jose, Calif.-based BEA Systems Inc., which makes BEA WebLogic Enterprise Platform.

Analysis firm International Data Corp. reported that, at the end of 2002, IBM only marginally surpassed BEA in terms of market share but that BEA was gaining market share at about half the speed of IBM. Fogarty contends that IBM's push into the midrange space with a scaled-down version of WebSphere Portal, and all its WebSphere products, for that matter, will give IBM an edge.


Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor.

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