The VAR Guy

January 21, 2008

2 Min Read
IBM Counters Microsoft Small Business Server

Every few months, a tech company announces yet another software suite aimed at toppling Microsoft’s Small Business Server. The latest entry comes from IBM. And this isn’t just another application hodge-podge bundled on servers. Here’s the scoop.

First, some background. The small business server software market has dozens of niche players, including Novell’s Open Workgroup Suite, Small Business Edition; and a range of open source options from Collax and Xandros. Now, along comes a hybrid offering from IBM — one that involves on-site servers and off-site services that allow small businesses to collaborate with one another. The VAR Guy is intrigued, but does Big Blue really understand small business software?

Love ’em or hate ’em, Microsoft is the king of small business software. Thousands of VARs are running around North America (and the globe, for that matter) deploying and troubleshooting Microsoft’s Small Business Server. It isn’t a perfect product, but several years of trial-and-error have allowed Microsoft to polish SBS so that it’s a good fit for many small businesses.

Still, bigger competition is just around the corner. Specifically, IBM is prepping a line of small business software servers, dubbed IBM Lotus Foundations, for five to 500 employees. The servers, installed on premise, will be offered mainly through IBM Business Partners, according to a press release from Big Blue.

At first glance, The VAR Guy wasn’t overly impressed. The small business market seems to be dividing into two camps: Those that prefer to run Microsoft SBS on-site, and entrepreneurs who prefer the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, where applications are accessed over the web for a monthly subscription fee.

That’s where IBM Bluehouse enters the picture. Currently in beta, Bluehouse “provides extranet services that make it easy for small-and-medium sized companies to securely collaborate beyond their organizational boundaries,” notes an IBM release.

Sorry, The VAR Guy doesn’t have pricing or availability info handy for Lotus Foundations and Bluehouse. But IBM’s approach sounds promising. And despite Microsoft’s strong brand in the small business sector, there’s plenty of room for innovative competition.

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