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IBM to pump another $1 billion into Net efforts

Big Blue plans to spend an additional $1 billion to boost sales for its family of application servers and software that help companies build their Web businesses.

In an aggressive move to expand its Net efforts, IBM today said it plans to spend an additional $1 billion to boost sales for its family of application servers and software that help companies build their Web businesses.

The computing giant, which has already invested more than $1 billion in this area in the past two years, said it will spend another $1 billion in 2000 with plans to increase that investment by double digits next year. Big Blue intends to hire more than 1,000 sales professionals and engineers to help push its set of Net products to new clients.

IBM said its new WebSphere line of Internet products includes several new and improved features. The software helps businesses personalize and analyze Web content, handle complex transactions, and extend back-end business data and applications to the Web; provides data-security measures; and includes new tools that make it easier for developers to build and customize Web portals.

Meta Group analyst Gene Alvarez said IBM is doing the smart thing by touting its WebSphere line as a one-stop shop for companies that want to move their operations to the Web.

"(IBM) is trying to drive some depth into their offerings," Alvarez said. "They are trying to (pitch) a one-stop solution...IBM needed to do this to simplify the WebSphere message."

Alvarez added that IBM continues to bet on its veteran status to capture mind share in the competitive market for e-commerce products and services. "IBM has always been positioned as the safe (vendor) to go with," he said. "This (move) adds some credence to that decision process."

IBM, which first unveiled WebSphere roughly two years ago, has been steadily releasing new products and additional software to round out its core e-commerce offerings. Most of the software, which is often referred to as middleware, allows companies to integrate enterprise applications and process electronic transactions over the Web.

Like a number of its competitors, including Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Oracle, IBM has been moving aggressively to capture business in the midst of the business e-commerce boom by providing companies with the technology to develop popular and more complex online marketplaces and trading exchanges.

IBM said its new WebSphere infrastructure software helps companies at various stages of their online business--from the start-up phase, where they may have only a simple e-commerce Web site developed, to handling a more sophisticated site such as online marketplaces, where more complex Web transactions are conducted via the Web.

In March, IBM released a number of products specifically addressing business e-commerce and online marketplaces, including Lotus Domino, WebSphere Commerce Suite and WepSphere B2B integrator.

IBM said its WebSphere software framework is built on industry standards with support for all major computing environments and applications from nearly 9,000 software companies.

Big Blue also unveiled new development services that it says will make it easier for developers to create Web-based applications using the WebSphere framework. This software includes the WebSphere Edge Server, which is designed to create high-performance Web sites by providing features such as support for RealNetworks streaming media and improvements in Web caching software.

Also included is VisualAge for Java version 3.5, the newest version of IBM's development tool for the Java programming language. It provides a new "servlet wizard" to generate server-based Java programs, Java Server Pages (JSP), and HTML prototypes, which will allow programmers to write software and test it immediately to look for bugs before releasing it to a production server. JSPs allow developers to add dynamic content to Web pages.