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WebSphere Portal-Express Targets Small Biz

Big Blue is leaving no stone unturned in the high-stakes battle to win the Web Services race, announcing the rollout of the WebSphere Portal - Express, specifically targeted to the small business market.

The Armonk, New York-based IBM said the Websphere Portal - Express software installs in just five mouse clicks and is the first in a series of product announcement planned for small and medium-sized businesses.

Big Blue's WebSphere is the tech giant's core product in the Web Services race. It competes directly with Microsoft's .NET and Sun's SunONE initiatives. IMB said the $77 per intranet user price tag contains a a limit of 2,000 users per Portal Server. For extranet use, it would sell for $30,000 per processor with a limit of four processor licenses per Portal Server.

Because it can be installed with a few clicks of a mouse and run from just one server, IBM is positioning the software as the answer to the needs of small businesses looking to cut down on server and administration costs.

"With only a few clicks of the mouse, customers and IBM Business Partners can customize a page layout, add a new portlet, add a new user, or completely change the portal's interface," The company said, noting that WebSphere Portal - Express comes embedded with the IBM WebSphere Application Server, which is aimed at large-scale operations.

Interestingly, the new product does not tie customers into using IBM's DB2 databases. Instead, it runs on an open architecture that lets customers use databases from competitors. The software has been fitted with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and allows the use of alternatives like Microsoft's Active Directory and Lotus Domino Directory.

IBM said portlets created within the software can connect users to Internet-based information and company applications and can be reused across the entire WebSphere Portal family.

Big Blue said a premium version -- WebSphere Portal - Express Plus -- would also be available to feature instant messaging, online "people-awareness" and chat, virtual team rooms, group calendaring, task management, document libraries, and document sharing and revision capabilities.

The company said the Express Plus version will go for $122 per intranet user (with a limit of 2,000 users per portal server), and is $47,820 per processor for extranet use (limit of four processor licenses per portal server).

The rollout of the new products for the small business market comes less than a month after Big Blue inked a lucrative pact with J.D Edwards to pre-integrate its middleware platform with software from J.D Edwareds.

As part of that deal, the Denver, Colorado-based J.D Edwards would use IBM's technology to push Web Services-type capabilities to its "J.D Edwards 5" collaborative business applications, which is mostly targeted towards small- and medium-sized firms.

In the latest announcement of the WebSphere Portal products, IBM said it would use the J.D. Edwards deal to hawk to the mid market.