PARTNERWORLD: IBM fortifies On Demand portfolio

IBM Corp. this week will use its annual PartnerWorld conference as a platform to again sell its On Demand computing initiative, announcing a raft of new products and services designed to help business partners sell the initiative.

Chief among the new products are versions of WebSphere, grid computing software, and Express versions of IBM products tuned for SMBs (small and midsize businesses).

The new WebSphere Application Server Enterprise and WebSphere Studio Application Developer Integration Edition reportedly help simplify a variety of common IT processes involving development, integration, and management.

“WebSphere is critically important for our integration strategies,” said Angelica Horaitis, IBM’s vice-president in charge of global channels marketing, “which are in turn important to effective solution-selling for partners. The days are over when we and our partners replace boxes for the sake of it. We have to be in the business of solving problems, and these products and tools that enable On Demand computing tie solutions together.”

IBM will also introduce its Grid for Partners,’ according to a source familiar with the company’s plans. The grid is optimized to work with DB2, WebSphere, Domino, Tivoli, and IBM’s eServer line. Corporate users and developers can tap the Globus toolkit to create applications that will work across multiple operating environments, sources said.

“I think they are looking to take advantage mainly of WebSphere’s cross-platform [capabilities] in terms of executing distributed applications and getting a more total storage solution,” said one source familiar with the company’s plans.

Another WebSphere product to be rolled out will be WebSphere Portal Express for Linux. The product, scheduled to be released in this year’s second quarter and directly targeted at SMBs, will also support Microsoft’s SQL Server.

IBM will further bolster its commitment to Linux, unveiling its return on investment (ROI) Tool for Linux, which helps guide business partners through the process of building a Linux practice, as well as helping third-party developers more precisely evaluate the benefits of porting applications to Linux.

Big Blue will demonstrate for the first time a new messaging technology designed to help IBM and business partners better collaborate. IBM Community Tools, presently available only on the company’s iSeries servers, allows a developer to ping thousands of others developers and initiate an electronic conversation in which participants share technical knowledge. Ultimately, this could result in the creation of new technologies and products.

On the hardware side, IBM will update its xSeries servers by rebuilding the entire line around new Intel Corp. Pentium 4 and Xeon processors with enhancements IBM says will speed applications and transactions. The xSeries line is typically used for hosting Web sites, applications, and databases, IBM officials said.

Further emphasizing its ongoing focus on SMBs, IBM will introduce Express versions of DB2, Notes, and Tivoli. The new versions will contain only those core functions that midsize companies need to run an e-business, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans.

“These versions are not complete, they include only the stuff that is important for mostly [midsize] companies,” said one business partner briefed by IBM.

An array of companies including IBM and its arch-rivals are increasingly eyeing the SMB space.

“IBM has done a great job with large companies,” said an IBM insider, “Microsoft [has done so] with small ones. We are the Democrats and they are the Republicans, and now we are going after the independents, namely the midsize companies. That is where a lot of our money will go this year.”