IBM to expand on eServer plan

IBM Corp. this month will begin to walk the walk with its eServer strategy. It will unveil new models in its iSeries, pSeries, and xSeries lines of servers, system software, and tools spanning all its server platforms and outline a new approach to selling them to corporate and small-business users.

The eServer plan was originally announced last fall, as part of an initiative referred to internally as the Coverage Transformation Project, the upcoming series of product and strategy announcements will technically knit the platforms closer together and fundamentally change the way the company sells to and supports users.

Besides the server announcements, other technology announcements will center around common clustering technologies, higher-speed communications among its server platforms, Linux announcements that allow the open-source operating system to work more smoothly across platforms, and closer technical ties among versions of its key middleware products that reside on multiple servers.

The company this month will also talk about its System Framework for e-business, a technical relative of its Application Framework for e-business, which provides a structure for mixing and matching multiple server hardware and software pieces to provide specific solutions.

"We want users to have the fastest chips and memory [and] the most powerful systems, but we are not going down some proprietary rat hole to do it. This framework is all about giving these technologies an e-business infrastructure they can plug them into," said one IBM insider. "It is an extension of sorts to the Application Framework for e-business," he added.

IBM set the stage for this month's announcements by quietly reorganizing its field sales force into dedicated teams last fall, and by refining that reorganization during the past few months.

"We are changing the way we are going after new customers and how we deal with existing customers. We are changing the way we deal with our business partners in terms of enabling them to do more as a result of having a territorial IBM person that is their go-to resource," another IBM source said.

One sales team focuses solely on IBM's 200 to 300 largest accounts, whether those shops use mostly IBM products or servers from competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. or Hewlett-Packard Co.

Another team will focus on what one official called "aligned accounts" or those accounts that are either all in one geography or in similar application markets.

A third team is dedicated to supporting IBM's partners who are selling largely to small and midsize accounts. This team will receive referral fees for helping partners find business but will not compete against them.

"Through this program they are defining business partners' roles much more broadly than before. So they will have [IBM] sales teams whose main job is to support the business partners. They won't go after users directly," said another source familiar with the company's plans.

One example of the upcoming systems that will feature some of the technologies that better tie it to IBM's other platforms are two midrange pSeries systems from the H80 and F80 lines.

The boxes' copper-based systems will feature the 600MHz to 668MHz versions of IBM's Power3 processor with silicon-on-insulator technology, which significantly improves performance and throughput compared to its predecessors, according to sources. They will also be the first to feature IBM's AIX 5L operating system, which includes Linux programming interfaces.

IBM will move its clustering strategy forward this month as well when it announces that its Blue Hammer clustering technology, which now works across both AIX and Linux environments, will also work with its line of mainframes.

IBM is also expected to announce it will provide bundled clustering solutions for specific application markets, sources said, including ones for the life sciences and financial markets.

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