Swainson shoots down competing e-business models

IBM has upped the ante in the game of e-business middleware development and John Swainson wasted little time in slapping down his cards.

The general manager of IBM’s software application and integration middleware division declared direct competitor BEA Systems Inc.’s numbers on middleware market share totally false, and then called BEA CEO Bill Coleman a liar.

What raised Swainson’s ire was a recent press release from BEA that addressed the future of e-business development and middleware market share. In the release, Swainson said BEA stated it controlled 100 per cent of the market while IBM could lay claim to zilch.

“We are a very major player in this market today; in fact we’re the number one or two player in most segments of the software business including the middleware segment,” Swainson asserted. “BEA is not to be believed on any of this stuff. Frankly, Bill Coleman is a liar, Bill Coleman does not say anything that is truthful about the marketplace and I would be happy to have you quote me on that. Furthermore, I’d be happy to provide lots of documentary evidence.”

Swainson’s fiery retort isn’t without validity. A recent study by the Giga Information Group stated IBM’s middleware market share would grow by 50 per cent in 2000, rising to a 24 per cent share and equalling that of the current market share leader, BEA.

All dramatics aside, IBM’s latest WebSphere announcement at PC Expo 2000 in New York City created its own excitement even without the verbal barbs lobbied by Swainson.

IBM announced a US$1 billion infusion into its core Internet middleware technology, of which the company’s WebSphere software platform is the centrepiece.

Plus IBM announced an array of new offerings in the foundation and foundation extension layers of the WebSphere software platform.

The WebSphere Application Server 3.5 is an open, standards-based, flexible e-business application deployment environment forming the foundation for the WebSphere software platform. New standard features include expanded operation platform support for HP-UX; leveraged JDK 1.2 performance and capabilities; and an improved installation process.

Meanwhile, the advanced version facelift includes expanded operating platform support for HP-UX and Windows 2000; enhanced Java leveraging JDK 1.2 across all supported operating systems; improved product integration with other key application offerings in IBM’s e-business platform – including Lotus Domino, VisualAge for Java and WebSphere Commerce Suite; improved usability across installation, administration and product documentation; as well as additional support for Sybase’s database as container-managed persistent storage. The enterprise edition upgrade includes JDK 1.2 support; enhanced EJB support to further enable EJB and CORBA interoperability; a completely unattended install option; enhanced security; and native tooling and runtime support for Informix.

“Middleware is not just about selling software,” Swainson continued. “Middleware is about enabling e-business…frankly this is something that is incredibly important to us, not just from a software perspective but from the whole IBM company perspective.”

Swainson conceded IBM hasn’t always been so acutely focused in its overall vision of computing, citing an IBM chairman from 50 years ago who said the total opportunities for the future of computers could be measured on one hand. Fast forward to present day, Swainson said IBM is ahead of the pack.

“Frankly, talking about competition, we are in the place where I think our competitors will be two to three years from now,” he remarked. “I expect you’ll see Oracle and perhaps Microsoft and a few others come up in the next few years and talk about how they’re going to have this broad cross-platform e-business strategy that allows their people to build, run and manage applications.”

And with that, Swainson announced that WebSphere is the world’s first cross-platform middleware, rivalled by no other and the ideal platform for e-business applications.

“WebSphere really is the software platform for building e-business opportunities and e-business applications,” he said. “You’re going to see from us an unparalleled scalability in the marketplace based on good engineering, good design and excellent software implementation.”

While IBM contends that software is the soul of e-business, Oracle Corp. chairman and CEO Larry Ellison claimed software is dead. Oracle’s E-Business Suite 11i release isn’t seen as a threat by Swainson, however.

“If I had a penny for every announcement Oracle made I’d be a wealthy man,” Swainson said. “I believe Oracle is a formidable competitor not because of its strong applications but because it’s a dominant player in the Unix market.”