IBM Global Services flexes Web-hosting muscle

IBM Global Services, considered by some analysts to be a sleeping giant among the struggling managed hosting services provider market, announced a set of 30 new service offerings for its Web-hosting customers on Tuesday.

Including a wide array of offerings ranging from security assessments and design, to Linux implementation for the Intel hardware platform, to assisting small Web-hosting customers with their retail Web site implementation, IBM Global Services claims to be focused on fulfilling customer needs beyond co-location services.

“In [large enterprise] companies, they tend to outsource for skill and resource vs. outsourcing for facility [usage],” said said Jim Gant, vice-president of e-business hosting for Somers, N.Y.-based IBM Global Services. “Most of our customers have data centers. They don’t need space, they need speed to market.”

Despite its global customer base and hosting capabilities, IBM Global Services has garnered lukewarm attention over the past few years compare to its heavy-marketed Web-hosting competitors such as Digex Inc., Exodus Communications Inc., and Verio Inc., said Dana Tardelli, research analyst for Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

“[IBM Global Services] is an organization that through its history attracts the types of customers that have an affinity toward outsourcing and a need to solve a business problem,” Tardelli said. “Those are the types of customers [all Web hosters] salivate over.”

Tardelli said Digex, a solid market leader still working out the kinks of its acquisition by telecomm company Worldcom Inc., stands as the strongest competitor to IBM’s Web-hosting fortunes since it, too, is not shackled by a glut of unused co-location space that is causing pain to other industry players.

The IBM Global Services hosting security services announced on Tuesday include security health check, which allows customers to identify vulnerabilities and enable their Web sites for attack preparation, and firewall management and design to protect applications from unwanted visitor tampering. The security bundle also includes intrusion detection and anti-virus services, Gant said.

IBM’s WebSphere Commerce Suite Pro drives the e-commerce services package. Designed to help users create a Web-based catalog system, it features Web domain and address services, network and backup restoration services, and server offerings to prepare the site for transaction volume. Configurations are available for entry-level packages on IBM eServer xSeries servers running Microsoft Windows NT, and for more complex deployments on eServer pSeries running the AIX operating systems, IBM officials said in a statement.

Currently limited to the Intel platform, IBM Global Services’ new Linux Web-hosting services will allow customers to choose Linux Red Hat 6.2 support as well as applications designed for Solaris, Windows 2000, NT, and AIX. Gant said that IBM plans to bolster its hosting services to platforms beyond Intel.

Gant said IBM Global Services is taking full advantage of its strong professional service reputation and leveraging parts of IBM’s to gain ground in a hosting market that is rapidly losing capital and customer confidence. For instance, Gant said his company designed its new security services bundle offering in joint development with IBM’s business innovation solution (BIS) arm. He said that in the future IBM Global Services will play a large role in pushing managed services toward the application side – still a complex and cumbersome endeavor being tackled by large hosting providers.

“This is a long race and IBM is in it for long haul. It’s an industry that’s been characterized more by niche players. In part, the breadth of what we’re doing will give us legs in the long haul,” Gant added.

IBM Canada, in Markham, Ont., can be reached at