IBM marks middleware territory

Steven Fox-Radulovich describes himself as an IT shop of one. But he’s quick to add that his IT spending and integration challenges are no different from those facing his larger enterprise brethren.

Fox-Radulovich, project manager for the Manitoulin Island, Ont.-based Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF), is currently completing an e-commerce initiative designed to increase the organization’s profile and enable visitors to purchase Ojibwe arts and crafts online.

The online communications network is intended to promote commerce, cultural workshops and co-operation across First Nation communities, Fox-Radulovich said.

Fox-Radulovich was speaking during an industry solutions roundtable sponsored by IBM, which last month unveiled a host of middleware solutions.

IBM launched 12 industry-specific products targeted to its Canadian middleware users. They’re meant to help users manage and automate specific business tasks targeted to specific verticals including banking and government. IBM’s current middleware strategy is to develop software to solve specific issues in specific industries, said Noel Paterson, Markham, Ont.-based director of software sales for IBM Canada.

The products combine elements of middleware technology and application software from its network of ISV partners. IBM’s 2002 acquisition of consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers played a big role in determining the specific solutions, Paterson added.

Fox-Radulovich is considering implementing the new middleware offerings, which incorporate some tools he already uses. “We’re looking at getting more into the business of information management.”

The site runs on WebSphere Commerce Professional edition. The OCF aggregates and collects cultural data that the organization is looking to push online. The IT environment consists of a recently installed IBM xSeries server, MS 2000 Server, WebSphere along with IBM’s WebSphere Digital Media Enabler (WDME) to support the online management, sale and distribution of digital assets.

According to Martin Wildberger, vice-president, industry solutions, and director of the IBM Toronto Software Lab in Markhan, Ont., IBM competes in a lucrative worldwide solutions market. Companies are best served via an open-standards-based middleware infrastructure to support and integrate business processes, Wildberger said.

The way enterprises spend their IT dollars is changing as users want to buy a single solution rather than individual product purchases, Wildberger noted, adding that two out of every three IT dollars are spent on solutions. According to IBM, DB2 has more than 425,000 customers and 40,000 ISV applications, adding that there are currently more than two million WebSphere developers and 62,000 actual users.

But as organizations shift away from IBM’s mainframe and OS/400 systems, the market will become more competitive. According to Gartner Inc., the middleware market grew one per cent to just over US$6 billion in 2003. IBM stretched its market share lead in application servers, integration suites, portal products, message-oriented middleware and transaction-processing monitors, Gartner said.

Based on licence revenue, IBM’s market share exceeds its closest rival, BEA Systems Inc., by more than 29 per cent. But IBM doesn’t control the future of every middleware market, Gartner said, adding that vendor strength cannot be solely measured by revenue and market share. Companies such as BEA, Oracle Corp., SAP and Microsoft, are growing in various segments and offer competitive techno-logy in some cases.

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