Netscape key to IBM's new Web strategy

IBM this week is extending its partnership with Netscape Communications to selling high-end versions of its RS/6000 Unix server line bundled with several of Netscape's Web server applications.

With several of its product lines converging toward the World Wide Web and the number of its Internet partnerships proliferating, IBM hopes to give its users a broad array of choices by betting on many horses in the Web race.

IBM this week is extending its partnership with Netscape Communications to selling high-end versions of its RS/6000 Unix server line bundled with several of Netscape's Web server applications.

IBM last week saidit would port its own Web server applications and tools to a range of operating systems, including HP-UX, Solaris, Windows NT and OS/2 Warp.

By bundling Web software with hardware and offering a choice of Web servers -- including IBM's Lotus Notes-based Domino product -- IBM hopes to cover its bases in the fast-moving Web arena.

"IBM is figuring out that partnering is a good idea," says Michael Gibson, IBM's manager of PC server solutions, in Raleigh, North Carolina. "We don't have all the answers, but with partnerships, we do have more answers for your business."

Some analysts confirm that IBM will not push Notes as the only intranet platform.

"I think they're afraid to do that -- IBM is afraid of being accused of trying to push a strategy down people's throats," says Jon Oltsik, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

IBM is also actively tying its back-end transaction servers, namely CICS mainframe query systems, more tightly to third-party Web products via Java.

By the end of the year, IBM's Hursley Park Laboratories, in Hursley, England, will develop a version of the CICS client written in Java, which will allow users of Java-compliant Web browsers to work with back-end CICS applications and use the security and authentication services in CICS. Currently, IBM sells a gateway between CICS and Web servers that does not offer the same level of access and security.

Meanwhile, IBM is planning ports to other OSes to ensure that its Web servers can operate in a multiplatform environment.

The improved Version 4.1 of IBM's Internet Connection Server and Internet Connection Secure Server, available now on OS/2 Warp, Windows NT and AIX, feature new tools that help users better develop fully secured, customised Web sites.

IBM plans to make both the base and secure Internet Servers available for HP-UX and Solaris operating systems. Version 4.1 will be available for download this week, company officials say.

The intent behind the new customisation tools is to allow users to more dramatically differentiate themselves from the thousands of other businesses on the Web.

To help users securely set up both intranet and Internet sites, the servers have an authenticity-certificate utility -- a tool for creating certificates for employees without having to pay on a per-person basis.

Expected to be commercially available by the end of July, Internet Connection Server 4.1 will cost US$99, and Internet Connection Secure Server 4.1 will cost US$295.

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