IBM will unveil its answer to Microsoft BackOffice today, kicking off a war with Microsoft on NT middleware. The company will be launching a suite of three BackOffice-style server products, initially available for Windows NT, but with other platforms in the pipeline. Until now, IBM's AS/400 users with NT installations had little choice but to use Microsoft BackOffice if they needed an integrated application server suite for NT. "We want to provide a means to integrate NT into real enterprise applications," commented Tony Occleshaw, IBM's European software manager. "We're attempting to play Microsoft at its own game, and giving our customers (middleware) that works better on NT than Microsoft's alternative." The first product, codenamed Emerald, is targeted at small businesses. Emerald will bundle Lotus Domino with a fax gateway, Email and the IBM DB/2 database server for workgroups. IBM plans to forge OEM relationships with "leading PC server manufacturers" to have Emerald pre-installed. The mid-range suite, codenamed Rodin, is geared towards departments within organisations. This adds an SNA gateway to Emerald, to give users access to mainframe systems. The enterprise suite is codenamed Barpholdi, after the man who created the Statue of Liberty. Barpholdi builds upon Rodin's enterprise connectivity by offering enterprise middleware including the IBM MQ Series, message server and CICs and Encina transaction process monitors. IBM said Rodin and Barpholdi will be available in April, followed by Emerald "a little later". The company also plans to introduce versions of these suites for AIX, HP-UX and Solaris Unix, with availability slated for the second half of 1998. Robin Bloor, CEO of Bloor Research, called IBM's move "very aggressive", since the company is taking Microsoft head-on in the NT space. He added: "While the Microsoft suite is good, unlike IBM's CICs or MQ Series, MS Transaction Sever and MS Message Queue do not scale and are not cross-platform." One of the strategies behind the new IBM suites is to give IBM's AS/400 customers a migration path to the NT platform should they wish to move. Phil Cross, group marketing manager, business systems group at Microsoft, said: "IBM is responding to what Microsoft has already done with BackOffice."
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