IBM forms new unit to help ISPs

IBM has formed a new business unit to sell hardware, software and computer services to Internet service providers (ISPs) worldwide, the company announced yesterday.

The Internet Service Provider Industry unit will concentrate on the sales and marketing of high-end computer systems and business software to ISPs, IBM officials said at a press conference.

"This new unit will help ISPs become more successful in the fastest-growing segment of the communications industry in the world," said James Corgel, the vice president of the new unit, which will provide ISPs with a single point of contact for sales, marketing and products creation. The ISPs will count on IBM for software and hardware expertise, and the ISPs will provide otherwise impossible reach and distribution for IBM, according to Corgel.

ISPs increasingly are offering more than Internet access and simple Web hosting to customers, including a variety of capabilities related to e-commerce, prompting IBM to create the new unit, executives said at the press conference.

"We're expecting ISPs to become their own channel," Corgel said, adding that in that role ISPs will sell a diverse set of services, from hosting and Internet access to collaborative computing and customer-service applications.

IBM's current ISP partners include AT&T Corp., Deutsche Telecom AG, Sprint Corp. and Interliant Inc., which is already using IBM's NetCommerce Hosting Server and other Internet services, IBM officials said.

IBM, which recently outlined broad support for Linux, also will develop products for ISPs using that platform, officials said today. The company intends to support open-source software for Internet applications, they said, and also will provide ISPs with UNIX and Windows NT-based servers such as the RS/6000 and Netfinity.