If IBM has its way, Linux will enjoy more big business within small customer sites. Indeed, Big Blue on Monday will unveil and ship an integrated server software suite for small businesses.
The IBM Small Business Suite for Linux will include DB2, WebSphere and Lotus Domino. That's not news, though. Those software packages all been long available on Linux. What makes this interesting is that IBM claims that the products are now integrated to form a nearly seamless server. Moreover, a combined host/client installation program, dubbed IBM Suites Installer, could make setting up a LAN a lead-pipe cinch.
Suites Installer, believe it or not, is the most innovative part of the Suite. This program not only installs and to an extent customizes the server software; it also does the same for the Windows and Linux clients. A solutions provider could, for instance, use a loaded laptop to install the whole system from desktop display to DB2 database schema all in one operation.
Better still, IBM is providing the application programming interfaces (API) and other nuts and bolts for independent software vendors (ISV)s and integrators to add their own software applications to an installation. In practice, you should be able to install, say, your own custom medical services vertical application or a house-brew e-commerce package when you deploy the IBM suite.
The suite also includes several IBM Web design and productivity tools, including WebSphere Homepage Builder, a direct competitor to Microsoft FrontPage; Domino Designer and WebSphere Studio. Combined, this should make the Suite a natural for small businesses that want a large say in the setup and design of their Web pages.
All of this comes together by design, according to IBM's Scott Handy, director of Linux solutions marketing, to create a package that will satisfy small business needs. Moreover, Handy says it will help solutions providers who want revenue from small businesses but can't handle this market segment's poor economy to scale. By making the installation of a full office server suite with clients and your own applications, the Suite should cut down the costs of a small business installation to a much more profitable level.
The package, priced aggressively at $499 plus $90 per client software and license, is limited to no more than 100 users at a time, making it a true small business suite.
IBM is planning a major marketing and partnering campaign to push it into the spotlight. Big Blue already has 'go to market' plans with Red Hat, who will be first out of the chute on Monday, TurboLinux and SuSE. While the package will also be available on Caldera Linux, IBM and Caldera are still talking about how Caldera will push this package.
IBM's Linux suite is hardly a unique idea. Big Blue also offers a small-business suite for Windows 2000. And Microsoft markets the NT-based Small Business Server 4.5. Microsoft's Small Business Server 2000 is still in beta.