IBM has been collaborating with partners to craft small-footprint versions of its WebSphere application server and portal to go after Microsoft in the SMB market.
In May, IBM outlined to solution providers and analysts its WebSphere Express suite, said sources familiar with the project.
The project then went into silent mode, although an IBM spokeswoman said WebSphere Express products are slated for release in the fourth quarter.
One solution provider, who requested anonymity, told CRN that IBM previewed WebSphere Express to partners during spring meetings, but the initial reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
About 75 percent of partners introduced to the product said IBM was foolish to try to take on Microsoft with WebSphere, which is widely regarded as an enterprise-class platform, the source said.
"[Partners said, 'You've never beat Microsoft at their game, what makes you think you can do it now?' " the solution provider said.
Microsoft, for its part, continues to work on an e-business suite, code-named Jupiter, which comprises a raft of its server products including BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Host Integration Server and Sharepoint Portal Server. There is expected to be some level of integration and shared code between the server products, sources close to Microsoft said.
Covansys' Brian Glidden: Market has been waiting for WebSphere Express.
Others maintain IBM has the resources to make WebSphere Express a go.
Brian Glidden, national director for the IBM alliance at Covansys, Farmington Hills, Mich., is part of a team of partners working with IBM to position WebSphere Express. The market has been waiting for the new suite, he said, calling it "music to our ears."
Pricing has not been finalized but likely will be in the thousands of dollars, Glidden added.
Current configurations of WebSphere range from $8,000 per CPU for a single-server version to $35,000 per CPU for the enterprise version, according to IBM.
Another solution provider familiar with both the WebSphere Express plans and Microsoft's .Net game plan said IBM is going to "eat Microsoft's lunch" with its midmarket package because whether .Net is for the SMB market or the enterprise space "is not clearly defined."
But one source said that with an out-of-the-box, inexpensive configuration of WebSphere Express, there would be little need to offer services with the product. While that spells opportunity for resellers to push WebSphere Express, the solution provider said brand recognition for the suite is "limited" in the SMB market.