Apple's server offerings are gaining momentum among Internet-software developers and corporate users.

Grey Zone, an extranet software developer, Visa International, Terayon and Kelly-Moore will announce this week a partnership with Sybase to create an enterprise-class application for extranets running on Xserve .

Smith Micro Software will launch its enterprise software WebDNA 5.0 before the end of the quarter.

WebDNA is a scripting language with a built in database for generating Internet-based business applications. The enterprise version will consume Web services in the first version and create Web services in the second version.

Grey Zone will announce a deal today to co-market its content-management solution and conduct joint technical development of an application stack for its SecureZone 5 Extranet software atop Sybase's relational-database management system.

SecureZone currently runs on Linux-based systems, however Grey Zone executives said the addition of Sybase into the mix gives them an enterprise class database for Macs.

"MySQL [Linux DBMS] doesn't have the resources that Sybase has. Our software is just as much a transaction-based solution as any other transaction software would be, and Sybase is optimized for that high-level transaction capability," said Daniel Duerr, founder of Grey Zone .

Terayon , a manufacturer of broadband communications equipment with 500 employees and revenues in the $100 million range is one of the first companies to move to Grey Zone 's software .

"We had previously been hosting at Exodus on Linux, but the cost was prohibitive and we made the decision to host ourselves," said Matt Ott, director of marketing at Terayon.

Ott said Terayon went with the Mac for its ease of use, price and performance - especially in the area of storage where Mac supports less costly IDE drives rather than SCSI, which is typical of 1U rack-mounted servers.

"We have a bunch of Unix guys around here. They go in through the command line, and I go in through the GUI (Graphical User Interface), and everybody is happy," he said. Secure Zone for Sybase will ship by the end of the first quarter, and will start at $25,000 for one server and five groups.

According to one industry analyst, Apple stands to benefit from the combination of more vendors rolling out enterprise applications for Xserve, and the current anti-Microsoft climate.

"There are a lot of forces in the anti-Microsoft camp, and Apple is another good alternative. And for the enterprise, IT managers are looking for the kind of support that Sybase can provide. They offer more structure than Linux can supply," said Jim Johnson, chairman of he Standish Group.

Apple holds 3.5 per cent of the desktop market, but well under 1 per cent of the server market, largely because Xserve was introduced late last year, Johnson said.

Phil Bonesteele, WebDNA's director of product development and professional services, said the company has always supported Apple, but the addition of OS X Server makes easier to create Web services.

"In the course of the last year we have seen Apple take a growing proportion of our new sales," he said.

ProVar , one of Apple's only enterprise specialist US resellers that deals with large publishing, new media and entertainment companies, said OS X Server is on a roll. After receiving single unit sale orders by companies that just wanted to kick the tires, the company now receives orders for multiple units in the twenties and hundreds.

"We are getting into accounts that would never look at a Mac before this. It is a breakthrough product for Apple for two reasons: the OS is Unix based, and the server form factor is appealing," said Wiley Corbett, CEO of ProVar.