IBM takes Web services battle to Microsoft

The battle of the behemouths. Big Blue is taking on Microsoft and Oracle in the hot new Web services market--building software to link corporate partners.

IBM is expected to unveil a slew of products that will enable its customers to build software links over the Internet.

IBM's new products fall into the hot area of "Web services," essentially software tools that give companies a way to connect their software applications with other companies, usually suppliers or customers, reducing the time and costs of developing such links.

Microsoft has entered the field with its much-ballyhooed Microsoft.NET, as has software giant Oracle.

IBM's Web-services offerings, to be announced Monday, are mostly expected to become available during this quarter. Web-services capability will be added to its major software-product groups including its DB2 database; its Internet-infrastructure software, WebSphere; Lotus Notes; and Tivoli security-and-monitoring software.

In the Web-services area, IBM has been working with customers such as Galileo International, the big travel-reservation company based in Rosemont, Ill., so that it can cheaply offer access to small travel companies who couldn't afford the investment to customize their links to Galileo in the past.

A spokeswoman says that Galileo may also offer new services such as golf tee-time reservations, because it can do so without having to reprogram the links to all of its existing customers.

Martin Marshall, managing director of Zona Research, Redwood City, Calif., said: "IBM is creating a tool that will enable corporate developers to take existing functions and quickly put them up as Web services."

Steven Mills, an IBM senior vice president, said customers are eager for Web-services software because it will help them avoid the "enormous amount of energy, time and effort that goes into integration" of different programs from different vendors.

He said that by putting Web-services capability in IBM's infrastructure-software, the company is allowing full transactions in which Web services can be purchased. He claimed software from other vendors doesn't have that capability.

In a separate development, IBM's global services division has reached a new agreement with Lucent Technologies to sell and service Lucent products such as the switches and software used in phone and computer networks.

Before the new pact with Lucent, also expected to be announced Monday, network providers, such as phone companies, had been hiring IBM to make Lucent's telecom gear work with their computers. The new agreement expands the relationship to include other customers in the broader corporate market and in the government.

A person familiar with the agreement said the two companies expect to split $300 million in revenue generated by the pact over the next two years. IBM has similar services agreements with Lucent rivals including Cisco Systems, Alcatel SA and Nortel Networks.


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