IBM’s New Appliance Eases IT Headaches As Small Business Server Alternative
IBM (NYSE: IBM) plans to help free small- and medium-sized businesses from the headaches, limitations and costs of current information technology (IT) maintenance with a new appliance — called IBM Lotus Foundations Start — that offers customers an easy way to collaborate, as well as the option to reliably run Microsoft Windows on a virtual machine with VMware technology. The new “plug-and-play” appliance combines software and hardware and is designed to allow employees to begin working together within one hour of initially booting up.
The IBM Lotus Foundations appliance has everything a customer needs to quickly set up a reliable IT infrastructure. The software uses the IBM Lotus Notes/Domino collaboration platform to enable employees to create, share and print Lotus Symphony documents, and work with email and calendar functions. Its automated design — self-configuring, self-healing, and self-managing daily systems operations — eliminates the need for routine maintenance and helps to ensure that critical data is protected through an integrated disk backup technology.
“For the first time, customers and partners have access to an all-in-one appliance where both the hardware and software are sourced by a single vendor,” said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president, IBM Lotus Software. “One source to deal with makes life a lot easier. The appliance is a complete system, and it’s designed to require zero on-site IT support. All a customer needs to get started is a power outlet and an Internet connection.”
The Lotus Foundations appliance will be generally available in December.
VMware Software Supports Windows
IBM is also announcing a pilot with VMware, which will provide support to IBM Lotus Foundations users who run Windows and are licensed to run Windows-based applications. Lotus Foundations customers will benefit from running Windows on a virtual machine on IBM Lotus Foundations. Even if the Windows operating system crashes, the business can still access the core capabilities of Lotus Foundations without rebooting. Lotus Foundations operations are designed to continue uninterrupted.
Business partners also benefit as they no longer need to visit their customers onsite to diagnose Windows system crashes. Lotus Foundations users can sign up for the VMware pilot at: https://www-304.ibm.com/software/earlyprograms/surveys/cust/nomination.wss?id=622.
The software technology in IBM Lotus Foundations is built on a 100 megabyte Linux kernel, compact enough to be stored on a solid state chip. The system starts up at the chip level, so in the unlikely event that both hard drives fail, IBM Lotus Foundations will still boot up with network, firewall, virtual private network (VPN), user accounts and other key services completely operational.
“The ability to remotely access and administrate my client accounts, even if their systems go down, is essential,” said Rick Kane of Onsite Technology, Inc., an IBM Lotus Foundations Business Partner. “I don’t have to spend money to travel for a site visit and my customers don’t experience the cost or hassle of significant downtime. And in today’s economic climate, that can be the difference in keeping the lights on.”
This configuration addresses the headaches that small- and medium-sized businesses have dealt with from traditional IT solutions, such as Microsoft Small Business Server and the subsequent security patches, emergency fixes and operating system upgrades. IBM Lotus Foundations eliminates “patch management” and the lengthy downtime and labor associated with upgrades. When an update is available, the system downloads the latest Linux operating system in a matter of minutes. Even major upgrades require a single click. There is no need for an on-site IT support visit or planning tools. The process is also completely reversible.
“We’ve always viewed computer systems as a ‘necessary evil,’” said Greg Bruce, chief operating officer of Hester Group. “They’re essential for our business, but there’s always something to be fixed or updated. And it seems that every month, we have to buy or install something new. IBM Lotus Foundations is different. We get everything in one package and there’s no maintenance. Our local partner plugged it in, and it just works.”
IBM Lotus Foundations simplifies and improves the backup and recovery process through a single “system restore button” on the new IBM Lotus Foundations appliance. In the event of a complete system failure, merely pressing the “system restore” button on the appliance recovers core functions. At the same time, the system automatically performs back-ups as often as every 15 minutes, providing continuous data protection. With replaceable primary and secondary drives, a back-up solution is always at hand.
IBM Lotus Foundations provides customers with collaboration technology to take advantage of the latest social networking tools, while enabling their business to grow without making additional IT investments. The appliance can accommodate up to 500 users, so as a business expands to 75, or 300 users, there is no need to upgrade to more expensive and complex products, which often require the purchase of additional hardware.
IBM Lotus Foundations also offers a range of software applications to address business challenges. On November 21, the IBM Smart Business Developers’ Kit will become generally available, enabling independent software vendors (ISVs) to easily package and sell Lotus Domino applications to small- and medium-sized businesses. This will open new markets for the developers and give SMB customers a host of new Domino applications to better run their businesses.
Business partners that use the Developers Kit can simply point to an existing application on a Domino server and the tool will combine the necessary files into a “single-click” installation package. The applications can be deployed into environments as separate packages or preloaded by the business partner, an important feature since many smaller companies don’t have on-site IT support.
“The toolkit is well thought out and well executed,” said Richard Gill, president and founder of Gill and Piette, an IBM Advanced Business Partner focusing on SMB Lotus Notes development. “It does exactly what you expect it to — it’s intuitive and it’s easy. With the Kit, IBM is effectively giving us the ability to reach a new customer set without having to make any additional time or dollar investments. In today’s business climate, a business partner couldn’t ask for more.”
For more information about IBM Lotus Foundations, visit www.ibm.com/lotus/foundations or www.lotusfoundations.com.
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