IBM Unveils WebSphere Business Integration Server Express

WBI Server Express completes IBM's business process integration platform for the SMB space, according to Mark Ouellette, vice president of worldwide marketing for SMB at IBM. SMB customers, like their enterprise brethren, are suffering from lack-of-integration pain: Internally, they need to become more efficient and find ways to leverage legacy systems; externally, many are tapped to comply with mandates from larger suppliers and customers to connect up their supply chains over the Net or other B2B network, he says.

"[SMB's] integration problems are the same, just on a different scale," Ouellette says. "But for these folks, there are few resources to throw at the integration issues and often no IT staff."

WBI Server Express offers a less expensive alternative to the full-fledged WBI Server that IBM sells in the enterprise as the core integration engine. The Express version starts at $5,999 per processor and runs on Windows starting May 14. In a subsequent July release, it will offer support for Linux and IBM's iSeries platform.

Creating an Express version of WBI Server was not a trivial task given the complexity of the flagship product it derives from, Ouellette says. The goal was to create a product that enabled back-end integration out of the box, and to meet IBM's Express product criteria to be easy to install and manage, as well as cheaper, IBM engineers ended up having to write WBI Server Express from scratch. That accounts for its arrival many months later than the other pieces of the SMB integration playbook that came out last year, including WBI Business Integration Connect Express, used to connect to online trading networks; WebSphere Business Integration Express for Item Synchronization, which enables SMB businesses to synchronize their supply-chain data with current UCCNet standards; and finally WebSphere MQ Express, IBM's SMB version of its legacy messaging middleware.

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"We had to do it from the bottom up," Ouellette says. "I would have liked to have gotten [WBI Express] into the market last year, but in the end it was more important to get it right."

It has been nearly 18 months since IBM introduced the first of its Express software products in its bid to go downstream in the market and compete head-to-head with Microsoft in companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees.