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-- by Joseph C. Panettieri
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em? That's surely never been IBM's corporate strategy, but it accurately describes the company's attitude toward Windows NT. Unable to squash the operating system's popularity, the world's largest computer company has gone exactly the other way-it has quietly amassed an arsenal of NT applications that's arguably larger than Microsoft's.
The cornerstone of IBM's NT strategy is Lotus Notes, the impetus behind Big Blue's $3.4 billion purchase of Lotus Development in 1995. Notes was first developed for OS/2 and later ported to NT. As recently as last winter, IBM was evangelizing OS/2 as the number-one platform for Notes. Now, according to Steve Mills, general manager of IBM's Software Solutions Division, Notes for NT is outselling its OS/2 counterpart. Also, Notes' installed base (at more than 10 million seats) is several times greater than that of Microsoft's rival offering, Exchange Server (see related news story in this section)
Notes' momentum is expected to continue with Domino 4.5, a newly rebranded release of Notes' server that offers extensive Web capabilities-including a POP3 mail reader and client support for most popular Web browsers. (The Notes client will still be known as Notes.) Domino also packs several NT-specific features, such as support for NT's Event Log, Performance Monitor and User Manager. Last, but certainly not least, Domino offers application-level clustering, meaning that if a Domino/NT server crashes, it can fail over to, say, a Domino/UNIX server. By contrast, Microsoft's clustering initiative, code-named Wolfpack, focuses purely on NT Server networks.
Domino isn't the only IBM application integrated with NT. Take DB2 for NT, a database that has earned Microsoft's BackOffice logo.
Mills said IBM sold more than 25,000 copies of DB2 for NT Server last year, and DB2 for NT's installed base should surpass DB2 for OS/2's installed base of about 100,000 servers, according to the company's own estimates, sometime in early 1998.
Just who is buying DB2 for NT? French insurer AGF, for one, is deploying the database across 1,700 NT servers, making it one of the largest NT contracts IBM has inked. "That's just the beginning," crowed Mills. "We're planning on 100 percent or more growth for DB2 on NT in 1997."
If Mills can make good on that forecast, DB2 might gain ground on Microsoft and Oracle, which together command more than 80 percent of the NT Server database market, according to market researcher International Data Corp. DB2, by comparison, currently has less than 5 percent of the NT market.
To expand DB2's market share, IBM is preparing DB2 Universal Database, a Web-enabled upgrade that's slated to ship by midyear on NT, OS/2 and UNIX. The new DB2 will offer Java database connectivity, and support for image, video and audio data types.
Other NT products are on the way, including a new version of IBM's Directory and Security Server software. It's slated for release this summer and will be based on DCE 1.1 from the Open Software Foundation (OSF). Directory and Security Server is expected to compete with Novell Directory Services (NDS), Banyan StreetTalk and Microsoft's forthcoming Active Directory for NT 5.0 (see NT Enterprise Edition feature, February)
What do IBM's new NT products mean for OS/2 Warp Server? "We remain committed to OS/2," said Mills. "But many customers are going to make the NT decision. Our NT strategy is not about merely accommodating NT. It's about offering premier products for NT."
And beating Microsoft on its own platform.
Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.