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IBM, Microsoft fight for business apps

The two companies are taking their back office battles to the belly of business software systems.

IBM and Microsoft are taking their back office battles to the belly of business software systems.

The two software giants are competing to be the plumbing that moves data around the massive software systems from SAP, PeopleSoft, and other similar players.

IBM division Lotus this past month rolled out a number of products for linking its Domino middleware product to software packages from PeopleSoft, Oracle, and as of yesterday, J.D. Edwards, among other programs.

And Microsoft is busy promoting itself as the "DNA" needed to run under ERP systems from the likes of SAP and Baan.

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

IBM also has a huge services and consulting arm targeting the ERP market that it can use to promote its products. IBM Global Services has recently announced programs for quickly implementing Baan, SAP and other packages, pre-loaded, of course, on IBM products.

And Big Blue's move to link J.D. Edwards' products is an obvious choice given that the majority of J.D. Edwards' customers run the software on IBM's AS/400. But J.D. Edwards is starting to see significant growth in customers wanting its product on the Windows NT platform. If IBM can lock down customers with its package deals, it has less to fear from Microsoft also selling Exchange and SQL Server to those NT customers.

As for Microsoft, the software titan was rumored to be shopping for an enterprise software system to call its own. But analysts said the Redmond, Washington-based firm's strategy is much more in line with attacking the infrastructure market and partnering with the application vendors instead.

Microsoft the past two years has heavily promoted its back office products of Windows desktop and NT server software, SQL Server database, and component architecture as the best way for companies to get the most out of their lucrative ERP systems.

Microsoft calls its plan the DNA of corporate computing infrastructure. Microsoft's Windows DNA stands for Windows Distributed interNet Applications (DNA) architecture. Like its biological namesake, Microsoft's DNA is meant to provide some basic building blocks for business application developers to use to build their object-oriented systems. SAP and Baan have already signed on to the Microsoft view of software replication and are using Windows DNA to build some of their products.

But most of the vendors are trying to stay platform independent to keep their market opportunities wide open. In fact, J.D. Edwards' heavy reliance on the AS/400 prompted the firm to revamp its product so that it could run on other platforms, namely Windows NT.

And Baan simultaneously announced partnerships with IBM and Microsoft from its European user group conference last month proving that it is willing to hook up with anyone and everyone to sell products.

This means that the IBM/Microsoft war is more likely to be fought in corporate IT departments.