So I went to Melbourne today with my boss, against all better judgement, to see a two-hour presentation and demo from the IBM guys of their WebSphere Workplace Services Express (WSE) product.

Basically WSE is an "intranet in a box" solution that provides document-management (including workflow, versioning etc), discussion forums, instant-messaging (including presence-awareness), contact lists via your LDAP server, you name it. It's a mature product with a large install-base, and it looks pretty slick. In fact, it does everything that we want in an intranet product.

The reasons I was (am) pro-SharePoint and anti-WSE are twofold:

  1. It's based on J2EE. This might not be a huge problem, since it's in essence a self-contained application ... but I dunno. What if we want to write our own 'portlets' for it? We'd basically be screwed. I suppose we could write an ASP.NET app to publish an RSS feed for the data we want and use a WSE portlet that can subscribe to that feed. That'd be a read-only solution, depending on the problem it's trying to solve. Anything would be a cludge - we have no skills in Java.
  2. It costs money. Windows SharePoint Services is free. Granted there are other facets to the SharePoint solution that cost money (SharePoint Portal Server, Live Communication Server etc), but the base-model is a free download and also happens to do everything we need.

So ... those reasons are still sound, but that's not why I'm posting this blog entry. This particular entry is all about the last slide that the guys posted up on the projector in their presentation. Let me describe it.

The slide was about WSE's "position in the market". It basically outlined that WSE's major competitor is SharePoint (no surprise) and had each product stacked up against each other.

On the left side of the slide were a series of boxes that made up a SharePoint installation - Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2000, Windows SharePoint Services, Live Communication Server and SharePoint Portal Server. The slide also included costings for each product, and although I didn't do the actual calculation, it came in at somewhere around AU$10,000 per processor (ie, in our case, per site).

On the right side of the slide was a single box outlining WSE's feature set. Confusingly it didn't mention the operating system it runs on (I'm pretty sure it needs one! heh heh), so comparing costs might not be quite fair ... but as you'll soon see that's kind of academic. You see, this box also had a price next to it. A per-processor price.


Let me break it down for you. IBM and one of their partners, in their own promotional slide, just told us that their major competitor with all the same features is one sixth the price.

Gee ... this is such a hard decision!!!

ps. The most mind-boggling thing about the whole thing is that nobody, not even my boss, seemed to mind! They acted as if there was nothing out of the ordinary with that slide. I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor to say something like, "Are you TOTALLY INSANE????"