IBM touts server-based middleware system

IBM Corp. Monday outlined its plan for moving enterprises away from the use of fully loaded PCs to a server-based middleware system that can deliver applications to any device.

It's an approach that relies on middleware to give users a single-client computing model across a range of devices, including PCs, handhelds, cell phones and embedded devices, with centralized IT management.

The goal is to give users the "ability to (move) from thick to thin and anything in between," said Steve Mills, who heads IBM's software division.

IBM said the middleware layer, IBM Workplace Client Technology, makes the choice of underlying operating system largely irrelevant. Its client technology can support Windows, Linux and, eventually, Mac OS. It can also support Unix.

The client technology has also developed into a microedition to support a range of devices.

IBM's client technology will support Microsoft Office through a plug-in, although the Windows operating system will be needed on the client. But Mills said the real savings will come through server-based management and not necessarily because of the operating system.

"The operating system is not what drives the cost; it's the labor cost," he said.

IBM is not trying to develop an "anti-Microsoft" strategy, said Mills, but rather is looking for ways to leverage technology across the enterprise.

IBM's emphasis on server-based computing is part of a broader trend by enterprise vendors to offer more server-based solutions to move users away from fully loaded PC systems. The approaches vary. For example, Sun Microsystems Inc. has developed a thin-client solution, which it calls Sun Ray, whereas Hewlett-Packard Co. is offering centralized management for the desktop by using PC blades.

IBM also introduced new Lotus Workplace messaging and document management products as part of today's announcement.

Pricing, which is based on volume, will cost US$2 per user per month for the client technology and $1 per user per month for its document messaging and instant messaging application.

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