Just a few weeks after Microsoft pulled the plug on its Windows Essential Business Server (EBS), IBM has beefed up its own pre-integrated package for small and medium-sized businesses, called Lotus Foundations.
New versions of Lotus Foundations will now include a copy of DB2 Express-C database server, said Caleb Barlow, who is IBM's director for solutions development for small and medium-sized businesses. The addition will not raise the price of Lotus Foundations, he promised.
Available in three editions, Lotus Foundations comes in the form of an appliance that can be installed in a small office and provide applications and services, such as e-mail and calendaring, to the local desktop computers. A range of IBM applications are packaged so they can be automatically installed and updated to Foundations.
The available editions are Lotus Foundations Start, Lotus Foundations Branch Office and Lotus Foundations Appliance Hardware.
IBM developed these appliances for small organizations with 1 to 500 employees, Barlow said. Typically such organizations do not have dedicated IT staff. A tech-savvy employee may maintain the IT operations, or the organization may contract maintenance out to a service provider.
In either case, these customers are looking to keep maintenance as simple as possible, Barlow said.
The addition of a database should ease management even more, Barlow said. An office can use the database to manage data from an internal application. Most organizations have some sort of industry-specific applications that they use, and what happens in most cases with Foundations is that the organizations will install the application along with a database on the appliance. Prior to this release, customers were buying and installing DB2 separately, or using an open source database like MySQL.
Offering a version of DB2 as a pre-configured package will cut down on the system administration work that needs to be done maintaining such a database.
In discontinuing EBS, Microsoft cited the increasing use of cloud computing as a viable option for small organizations. Cloud computing does indeed provide many of the services an organization may need, but not all of them, Barlow argued.
"The concept that everything will move to the cloud is a bit naive. Particularly with small businesses, we'll still see the need for on-site data storage and processing for the foreseeable future," Barlow said. He cited such factors as compliance with data privacy laws and even the lack of broadband as issues that prevent small organizations moving entirely to the cloud.
"Your average dentist's office probably just has a cable or DSL line," he said.
Lotus Foundations starts at about US$3,400 for five users.