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IBM wants big impact from small Net server

Big Blue is readying a new Windows NT server for ISPs, IBM's first volley in a plug-it-in-and-forget-it strategy aimed at getting Internet servers up and running more quickly.

IBM wants to intimidate Sun Microsystems and other rivals selling servers to Internet service providers.

Big Blue is readying a new Windows NT server, code-named Intimidator, for ISPs that it will deliver in less than two weeks. The new server is IBM's first volley in a plug-it-in-and-forget-it strategy aimed at getting Internet servers up and running more quickly.

The Netfinity 4000R will be one of the smallest ISP servers available, the company said, measuring 1.75 inches thick and stackable to 42 units high. Space for additional servers is a major concern of ISPs as they expand their businesses.

The 4000R servers are based on technology IBM licensed from Network Engines, said Jim Gargin, director of marketing for Big Blue's Netfinity line.

In an IBM first, the 4000R will be availabe with Windows NT preinstalled, Gargin said. Usually IBM leaves installation of the operating system up to the companies that deal more directly with customers. IBM is evaluating whether to preinstall other operating systems as well, he said.

Intimidator will come with two 500-MHz Pentium III processors and will cost $3,999 and up, also making it one of the cheapest ISP servers around. Big Blue is targeting the Netfinity 4000R to companies primarily offering Internet access and Web hosting.

Intimidator is the first in a series of new Netfinity servers for ISPs as well as application service providers. Application service providers typically host software programs and infrastructure applications, such as databases, for large businesses.

The new Nefinity servers, code-named Sparrow and Silk Worm, are expected to ship later this year or in early 2000. Sparrow is a thin server for companies providing application hosting, and Silk Worm is more of an infrastructure server, using four Intel Pentium III processors.

Thin is in at Big Blue, which also plans to deliver a reduced-size RS/6000 later this month, code-named Pizzazz and formally named the B50. IBM will announce the new Netfinity servers and offer a peek at the Pizzazz on September 15 at the Network+Interop show, Gargin said. The RS/6000 server line, a midrange IBM server, runs Unix and uses IBM PowerPC chips.

IBM hopes to challenge rival Sun's significant lead in the ISP market and growing dominance with application service providers by speeding time to revenue. The new servers will come preconfigured and ready to use. Conceptually, ISPs and ASPs will be able to slide the servers into a rack, attach the power cord and network connection, and use the new servers immediately.

Big Blue will also challenge Compaq Computer, which claims that about 30 percent of ISPs use its servers overall and that 50 percent of those run Windows NT. Sun offers only Unix servers, which like Compaq's typically require some configuration by computer dealers or in-house IT managers before deployment.

IBM is betting that its thin line of preconfigured servers will attract customers who need to order a server today and install and run it tomorrow.

News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.