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IBM battles for corporate dollars

The company launches a new series of server-side software packages for Windows NT to vie against BackOffice, Microsoft's own suite of applications.

LAS VEGAS--IBM is conceding nothing to software giant Microsoft in the fierce battle for corporate computing dollars.

Big Blue launched a new series of server-side software packages for the popular Windows NT server operating system to battle Microsoft's own suite of applications, called BackOffice. The company also revealed plans for a new Intel-based server operating system code-named Aurora, partially based on the firm's OS/2 Warp Server software.

IBM continues to walk a fine line in offering software applications that sit on top of NT while maintaining several operating system alternatives for customers.

The new server software packages include offerings for departments and medium-sized businesses as well as large enterprise operations. Included in the bundle is version 6.1 of the LANDesk desktop management suite from Intel, the Lotus Domino application and messaging server, and IBM's DB2 Universal database, among other features.

The new applications join a new line of application servers, announced earlier this week. On Tuesday, IBM jumped into the rapidly growing market for application server software by detailing plans to offer WebSphere Application Server, a new product for building Web-based business applications.

"We've got industrial-strength components that are proven in the market place," said Richard Sullivan, IBM's vice president for NT solutions marketing.

The enterprise option also includes IBM's MQ Series transaction processing middleware as well as a software tie-in to Tivoli Systems' TME 10 enterprise management software. Both Tivoli and Lotus are IBM subsidiaries.

"IBM's multiplatform pitch, the momentum of the MQ Series, and the installed base of Lotus users are all to IBM's advantage," according to a Zona Research report. "Microsoft has its own momentum behind its NT Back Office products. It could be quite a fight."

IBM may have a wide market opportunity given its intentions to offer the application suites for Sun Microsystems Solaris, Hewlett-Packard's UX, and IBM's own AIX versions of Unix.

The enterprise and medium-sized application package options are immediately available. A version for small businesses with less than 100 users will enter beta testing later this month.

IBM also continues to make a go of it in the Intel-based operating system market, targeting Aurora for entry-level deployment. The Aurora project is specifically designed for rollouts of Big Blue's WorkSpace On-Demand, a server managed client operating system and Net-based computing needs. The new operating system will enter beta in the fourth quarter of 1998 with general release scheduled for delivery in early 1999, according to IBM executives.

Features of Aurora will include a revised underlying code base, or "kernel," a memory management system, a high-capacity file system, Year 2000 compliance, and recognition of the European transition to the Euro currency. New features available immediately for OS/2 Warp Server include a new data backup and recovery capability as well as systems and network management improvements.

Aurora will enter the market supporting up to 64 processors and includes technology from other IBM operating systems, such as AIX. The new software will also include clustering software services to allow multiple server systems to be strung together.

New additions to the company's WorkSpace On-Demand client-side package will include wider support for hardware using standard IP and a focus on making application installation easier. The update is due in the fourth quarter of this year.