IBM is to combine its Unix and Numa units into a single Web Server division in an attempt to strike back at arch rivals, Sun Microsystems and EMC.
The move is intended to improve Big Blue's flagging hardware sales and inject more focus into a business that has been hit heavily by competition from Unix rivals.
Buell Duncan, IBM's general manager of global business partners, admitted at the supplier's Partnerworld show in San Diego on Monday that 1999, in particular the second half, had been difficult for Big Blue and its channel because companies locked down to deal with the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem.
As a result, Lou Gerstner, IBM's chairman and chief executive, tried to drum up greater enthusiasm from the supplier's global sales force by calling for channel "warriors" to grab "chunks" of the ebusiness market.
Speaking in a pre-recorded video interview to 5,000 channel representatives,Gerstner said: "Ebusiness is real. It will dwarf the impact of the PC industry."
So-called warrior Will Etherington, IBM's senior vice president of sales and distribution, and Sam Palmisano, senior vice president for systems, both outlined Big Blue's strategy for 2000, which is to target Sun and EMC in the Unix and storage market spaces.
The new Web Server division, which will be run by former Sequent president John McAdam, will focus on selling AIX and Linux servers into a range of markets. At the same time, IBM will also begin selling Sequent Numa-Q servers through its channel at cut-down prices.
Palmisano said the goal was to gain two points of market share from Sun and two points from EMC, adding that IBM's enterprise systems workforce would be paid according to how much market share they won back.
"We are tired of having sand kicked in our face by a bunch of ex-IBMers," he said.
Etherington added that IBM had also formed dedicated pursuit teams to track down promising Internet start-ups or ebusiness opportunities.
The teams will plan just 180 days ahead in an attempt to act quickly and "capitalise on this burst of activity that will take place as people put their heads above the parapet after Y2K", he said.
A report last week from analyst Merrill Lynch said sales at IBM's server business had been "pathetic", noting that out of all of the company's ranges only the S80 high-end Unix box was performing well. IBM claims that it has shipped more than 700 S80s since its launch four months ago.
Merrill Lynch predicts that IBM will consolidate its server brands further and target the Linux market. Big Blue said today that it plans to offer Linux on all of its server ranges by the end of the year.
Separately, IBM launched a four-way RS/6000 Web server - its first low-end model to use copper chip technology. The 44P 270 is based on four 375MHz Power3-II microprocessors and has 256Mb to 8Gb of Ram.
The company also unveiled a 170 single processor workstation and announced Websphere Commerce Suite, which combines software formerly known as Net.commerce with Websphere Commerce Studio.
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