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New SMB Ammo: IBM WebSphere Express On tap

IBM is prepping another salvo in its SMB assault with WebSphere Express, a version of its application server aggressively priced and tailored for midsize businesses.

One potential price model is $2,000 per CPU and $25 per user, said sources close to the company. The current WebSphere costs $8,000 per CPU for a single-server version and $35,000 per CPU for the enterprise version.

IBM is also planning a channel assault with Partner Express Pack, a bundle featuring education, training and porting assistance, as well as a five-pack of WebSphere Express licenses for resale, all for $500, other sources said.

IBM declined to comment on specific product plans, other than to say WebSphere Express is on tap to ship this quarter. Details are expected to be unveiled this week.

IBM already is a leader in the app server and portal markets with its WebSphere brand. Now it hopes to push that branding and expertise into companies with 100 to 1,000 employees, which Mark Ouellette, vice president of sales and marketing at IBM Software, characterizes as the "sweet spot" of its SMB push.

IBM has said the J2EE app server and portal offerings are its first line of attack on Microsoft's .Net Web services game plan.


IBM's Mark Ouellette says vendor is aiming at SMB 'sweet spot.'

But the computing giant will have to deal with more than Microsoft in the SMB space. There, J2EE rival BEA Systems is pondering new low-priced versions of its WebLogic app server, said a channel source familiar with BEA's plans. One new BEA WebLogic configuration would run Java servlets and JSPs, while a more full-featured edition would allow for Enterprise JavaBeans deployment, the source said.

BEA has not decided on pricing and likely is waiting for IBM to release WebSphere Express before finalizing the cost of the new products, the source added. BEA already has a midmarket version of WebLogic called WebLogic Express.

A BEA spokeswoman declined to comment on any future releases.

IBM's DB2 database, with its ability to federate information from various sources, is another important component being tailored by the company for SMBs, sources said. A new DB2 Express portfolio, slated to start shipping early next year, may include a barebones database version for as little as $1,000, sources said.

IBM acknowledges it must address ease-of-use in its software. Microsoft's Windows-only products typically win reviews in that arena.

However, partners said IBM has its own strengths. "Their product is secure. They have a lot of experience in the security area in general," said Rich Burns, vice president of U.S. development at Adonix, a Paris-based ISV. The same cannot be said of Microsoft, he said.

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