IBM has shown off a pre-alpha version of an entry-level Internet server designed around Windows 95 and Lotus Notes 4.0.
When completed, the IBM Personal Web Server would mean that IBM could offer an alternative low-cost intranet solution for small workgroups that need common access to data stored in a secure environment, IBM officials say.
It would also give IBM a scalable Web-based solution, based around Lotus's Notes 4.0 and IBM's Internet Connection Server (ICS), that will run on Windows 95, Windows NT, OS/2, AIX, and OS/400. IBM is testing ICS now, although the Notes support will be added later.
Although Windows 95 lacks most of the features needed for high security, IBM is promising that ICS will give users a secure environment.
That security should enable IBM to compete against a similar product from Microsoft, which has announced plans to provide a personal Web server in the second half of this year.
"One of the reasons Microsoft has put a personal Web server in NT Workstation 4.0 is for those who want to develop content on a personal workstation and then distribute it to a limited number of users," says John Dunkle, president of Workgroup Strategic Services, a consultancy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
The IBM Personal Web Server will be positioned as a low-cost platform for groups of 20 to 30 users working on dedicated departmental tasks, officials say.
"This is not meant to change anyone's mind about running OS/2 or Windows NT, but it is a good alternative that rounds out the bottom end of our [Internet server] line," says Elias Bayeh, lead developer of the project within IBM's Internet servers and solutions group, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
IBM officials expect to ship the IBM Personal Web Server by the end of the year.
IBM also intends to embed support for the Java programming environment into the Personal Web Server product, which would make it suitable for use as a server in a network made up of Interpersonal Computer (IPC) systems, according to IBM officials.
"This fits in with our network-centric strategy in that even a desktop system could be a server to a group of thin clients," Bayeh says.
Those thin clients, or IPCs, are expected to ship by the end of the year.
Asked if the IBM PC company has shown any interest in bundling the Personal Web Server on either its desktop or server systems, Bayeh says that such talks have only recently begun and no decision about bundling has been reached.
Although IBM has not releases hardware specifications, Dunkle says the IBM product will need a beefed-up desktop or low-end server for performance.
"You'd better have a dual Pentium Pro-based system if you are going to put Notes on Windows 95 with a Web server. Notes 4.0 is a resource hog," Dunkle says.