IBM Refreshes Suites for NT, Halts Enterprise Version

Early last year IBM Corp. released three suites of back office products for Windows NT. These included the IBM Small Business Suite for Windows NT, IBM Suites for NT, and the IBM Enterprise Suite for NT.

The company quietly refreshed the IBM Small Business Suite for Windows NT and IBM Suites for NT, updating both with the latest versions of DB2, Domino, and WebSphere. IBM added five application templates, an additional layer of integration with a common Web-based administration interface, and an LDAP directory and synchronization agents to the midrange -- IBM Suites for NT -- edition.

Richard Sullivan, vice president of NT solutions marketing at IBM, says all the suites’ components are Tivoli-ready. Intel Corp.’s LANDesk was dropped from the suites because customers prefer to manage the products from within a framework.

The IBM Enterprise Suite for NT was not refreshed.

The entry-level suite, IBM Small Business Suite for Windows NT, and the midrange IBM Suite for Windows NT have been penetrating the channels well, IBM says. The enterprise version of the suites has not met the same success.

"One of the things that we found out is that most enterprises really prefer to buy the components separately," Sullivan says. "The individual components are still selling well, but as a product thought, the suite has not been selling as well."

The TXSeries transaction processing software was the key component of the IBM Enterprise Suite for NT. It is the biggest differentiation between the enterprise suite and the midrange IBM Suites for Windows NT. Over the past several months, IBM progressively built its WebSphere application server products, adding TXSeries to the enterprise edition of WebSphere.

As a result, IBM has eliminated the Enterprise Suite for NT, and now offers the same functionality via WebSphere. Customers who want the transaction processing that TXseries provides will have to buy IBM Suites for NT and the WebSphere Enterprise Edition.

Sullivan says IBM did not want to offer the same product twice, so it did away with the enterprise suite. The company is working to offer an upgrade path to WebSphere Enterprise edition that will offer the same functionality as the IBM Enterprise Suite for NT.

Sullivan says that folding the suites together is not a big loss for IBM.

"The suite was more of a proof point that the products could be integrated than an actual product itself," he says. "So now that the integration capabilities have been added to the individual products, they are easier to integrate with each other anyway."

Still, the lack of selling prowess of the enterprise edition raises the question of whether IBM can compete with Microsoft Corp. in the back office suite arena.

Dan Kusnetzky, program director of operating systems and serverware at International Data Corp. (IDC,, says the two are not in direct competition with each other.

Although Microsoft’s BackOffice owns about 40 percent market share for back office suites as of IDC’s last analysis -- IBM had just announced its suites when IDC tallied the totals so it had no market share -- Kusnetzky says that BackOffice is little used as an enterprise-class product.

"Enterprise and NT don’t often go together, but NT is scattered throughout most large corporations. It’s just not running the business," he says. "Just by the nature of NT, BackOffice is not frequently being used for enterprise tasks."

Kusnetzky says one of the top three reasons customers cite for buying Windows NT is the availability of BackOffice, and as companies add new applications to their portfolios, they are building primarily on NT, which will drive sales of the BackOffice suite.

IBM and Microsoft, however, employ distinctly different strategies with their suites. Microsoft is aiming to tie customers to a Microsoft strategy. Big Blue, on the other hand, uses its products to accomplish the same workload as the BackOffice suite, but also promotes cross-platform interoperability and offers the suites for AIX and Sun Solaris as well as Windows NT. Most of the suite’s components are built to run a variety of platforms, as well.

"IBM’s suite is a better choice for cross-platform environments," Kusnetzky says.