IBM Expands Foundation Appliance Line, Adds Virtualization Through VMware Deal


IBM also said a new addition to the Lotus Foundations line, Lotus Foundations Start, will be based on the vendor's own x86-based System x server. Until now Lotus Foundations servers have been based on server technology developed by Toronto-based Net Integration Technologies Inc. (Nitix) which IBM acquired earlier this year.

IBM sells the Lotus Foundations appliances exclusively through the channel. Targeting small and mid-size businesses, the plug-and-play appliances, which support up to 500 users, are designed to be easy to maintain and administer. The systems can be installed in as little as one hour, said Caleb Barlow, integration executive for Nitix/Lotus Foundations.

Lotus Foundations competes head-to-head with Microsoft's Windows Small Business Server and Windows Essential Business Server. This week Microsoft is slated to begin shipping the new Windows Essential Business Server 2008, a pre-configured software bundle targeting mid-size companies with up to 250 PCs. It's also expected to begin shipping Windows Small Business Server 2008, a new release of the popular package for small businesses.

Lotus Foundations Start, slated for availability next month, is pre-configured with Notes/Domino collaboration software; Lotus Symphony document, spreadsheet and presentation applications and anti-virus/anti-spam applications. The servers also offer a simplified backup and restore capability.

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Under the deal with VMware, IBM is adding the VMware hypervisor to the Lotus Foundations server, allowing customers to run Windows and Windows applications on the system. VMware for the Lotus Foundations servers is currently in beta testing. The Lotus Foundations servers run on an optimized version of Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 with an operating system kernel that's less than 100 Mbytes, according to Barlow. The kernel is stored on a chip, so the server will continue to run even if the system's disk crashes, he said.

OnSite Technology, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based solution provider for small businesses, has sold the Foundations servers for several years. "They're just so reliable. It's just an all-around perfect thing for a small business," said OnSite owner Rick Kane. He encourages customers to adopt Foundations "to get away from Windows and the bloatware that goes with it."

He said he would beta test the VMware for Foundations, although he was skeptical whether it would be a big seller among small businesses.

On Nov. 21, IBM will ship the IBM Smart Business Developers' Kit ISVs can use to package their existing Domino applications for Lotus Foundations appliances.

Barlow said Foundations offers channel partners the opportunity to build fixed-price services around the server, including remote management services. "This enables a different business model." IBM is also providing partners with free support for Foundations, he said.

The Lotus Foundations server software is priced at $849 for five users. Pricing for the new server hardware has not been disclosed; The current server hardware is priced at $2,499.