IBM serves up partner programs

Top IBM Corp. executives on Monday added to Big Blue's embrace of the US$300 billion small- and medium-size business (SMB) markets by pledging a companywide campaign to win them over, and debuting several key partner programs and products at its annual PartnerWorld gathering in San Francisco.

"I think the breadth of today's announcements show that IBM is lining up across the company including our software, [hardware] server, services,and research groups, to take all of our offerings and enable them for delivery through business partners," said Peter Rowley, general manager of IBM's Global Business Partners, in a keynote address on Monday.

Based on analyst estimates, small to medium-size businesses -- those companies with 1,000 employees or less -- now account for 40 percent of worldwide IT market, according to analysts projections, IBM officials said on Monday.

"And those accounts typically want bundled solutions ... which they get in large measure through our partners," said Mark Lautenbach, a vice president in IBM's Sales and Distribution organization. "We are pulling together all the resources from within IBM to make that happen," he said.

The last time IBM made such an aggressive effort to rally such marketing and technical resources to go after a single goal was nine years ago when it began scaling up its now mammoth IBM Global Services business, Lautenbach said.

Productwise, one of the centerpieces of these partner programs is the new eServer zSeries 800, a lower-end version of the company's zSeries 900 mainframe, aimed at the SMB markets as well as at larger departments within Fortune 1,000 accounts, approximately 75 percent to 80 percent of which will be sold through IBM's business partners.

IBM also unveiled on Monday its Industry Solutions Portfolio, which is IBM's effort to deliver industry-specific applications with business partners to small and mid-size businesses.

The Industry Solutions Portfolio will concentrate on supply chain management, enterprise resource planning and business-to-business (b-to-b) solutions for fabrication and assembly. Company officials said they will add bundles and solutions for other vertical markets over the course of this year.

IBM also took the wraps off two new IBM Global Services (IGS) hosting services again catering to the needs of the SMB markets. IGS will work in concert with its business partners to offer fully managed hosting services in two different approaches.

The first is Infrastructure Solutions, which allow business partners to offer initial Web environment and design services in addition to their ongoing hosting, and IBM Managed Hosting Infrastructure with Server Management, which extends the management of Web environments to include the managing of Web hosting servers.

IBM said the number of its business partners supporting IBM's Linux-based software had increased some 800 per cent over the past year. Company officials said that the number of partners supporting middleware products such as WebSphere, DB2, and MQSeries grew to 4,700 from 548.

Company officials added that more than 1,000 business partners received Linux certification from Red Hat Inc. and the Linux Professional Institute last year, many of whom sell to the SMB markets.

As part of today's announcements, IBM unveiled the IBM Leadership Edge For Linux, described as a set of new and enhanced initiatives within the company's existing PartnerWorld program. Through this offering IBM will provided education, certification, co-marketing incentives, and technical support to assist partners.

Also part of the raft of products and programs announced its developerWorks Toolbox subscription, which will offer products and technologies that can be used for creating applications that take advantage of IBM's middleware class of products. Developers can also develop and test application prototypes as well as evaluate other IBM products.

As expected, the company also unveiled its WebServices on Websphere (WOW) initiative, essentially a community of developers and business partners that will be sharing technology and business strategies in order to develop and deploy Web services built around Java Enterprise Edition 2.0 (J2EE) technology.

Scheduled to launch in this year's second quarter, WOW will be lead by an advisory council that includes about a dozen ISVs who will work together to identify programs and product development requirements to help customers implement Web services. IBM officials on Monday said they expect to have 150 Business Partners by year's end.

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