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Reviews

IBM Small Business Suite

In these tight economic times, Linux is a tremendous boon to companies that want to reduce their IT budgets by cutting back on pricey and unreliable server operating systems from commercial vendors. However, a plain vanilla operating system without the proper server applications just won’t get you very far. Fortunately, this is where IBM Small Business Suite for Linux comes into the picture.

Small Business Suite for Linux is a set of applications and tools designed to allow businesses with fewer than 100 employees to harness the power of IBM’s e-business software at a greatly reduced price. Out of the box, SBS runs on Caldera, SuSE, Turbolinux, and Red Hat, providing those distros with applications such as Lotus Domino for integrated e-mail and collaboration, DB2 Universal Database for data management, and WebSphere Application Server and Homepage Builder for Web site design, development, and deployment.

Full of Features

On the client side, IBM Small Business Suite for Linux includes a number of applications. One of the SBS’s best features is its Suites Installer application, which is a Java-based application that allows you to install SBS applications onto many machines on a network from one centralized “Staging Server.”

The Suites Installer works together with an Installation Agent (which runs on both Linux and Windows). This agent runs on those computers that will have software installed on them. We installed it on a desktop PC running Windows, a laptop running SuSE, and a server running Red Hat.

In order to keep up with licensing requirements, Suites Installer works with a Key Manager application to create security keys. This allows the administrator to identify and verify which machines the staging server is installing applications onto.

In order to install specific software packages on specific machines, you can create “profiles” for each target machine. The Suites Installer allows for groups of computers to be set up, making it easier to roll out an application to a number of machines at once. Key information, such as the machine’s operating system and default language, can be set so that the correct applications can be served out as required.

Of course, simplifying software installation is just one piece of the Small Business Suite. The server applications are what really make it shine. Using nothing but the tools included with SBS, we were able to set up a basic test e-commerce site in just a few hours.

There’s much more here than just Web-based server software, however. IBM has also included Lotus’s Domino Server. Domino provides a robust and simple-to-learn database server with full database application development tools. It even works as a decent e-mail and calendaring server if you are so inclined. The ease with which Domino allows you to design database applications makes it a great tool for the small or medium-sized business looking to get organized in a hurry.

Bottom Line

Answering the challenge by many potential Linux users to provide good applications, IBM has jammed a ton of functionality into one package at a very reasonable price. The IBM Small Business Suite for Linux contains all the software a small business or startup company might need to create database-driven, e-commerce sites and build a successful e-business.

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