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IBM has ISP-in-a-box system

Big Blue is expected to announce an infrastructure for ISPs that will run their businesses, manage subscribers, and offer fee-based services.

IBM (IBM) is expected to announce an infrastructure for ISPs Wednesday that will run their businesses, manage subscribers, and offer additional fee-based services.

Using IBM's system, ISPs can also offer subscribers personalized "start" pages when they sign on, tailoring users' Internet experiences based on their interests without requiring providers to hire editors to manage online content.

The announcement is part of a major marketing push by the company in electronic commerce and e-business at Internet World this week in New York City. (See related story)

The IBM Subscriber Management System (ISMS), developed in cooperation with Prodigy, includes features that help ISPs manage subscribers, balance traffic among multiple servers, and add services such as email, application rentals, Internet faxing, and virtual private networks (VPNs).

"Basically, it's an ISP in a box," said Matthew Kovar, analyst at Yankee Group. "You can become an ISP or online service out of the box. They can sell it to affinity groups--the Elks Club could have its own private ISP connections."

But IBM is positioning ISMS for growing ISPs, not just new ones. "The second wave of infrastructure is going to be deployed," said Marni Ehrlich, global solutions executive for network computing, adding that Big Blue intends to move further into the ISP market. "ISPs are running out of capacity on first-generation systems, and IBM sees its strengths play well in this market."

Initially, ISMS will be available on IBM's Unix operating system, AIX, with ports to other operating systems such as Sun's Solaris due next year.