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IBM Picks Up Business Integration Push

Busy on the software integration front, IBM revealed that its has increased its coverage of specific industries to 11 and the number of templates overall to 45.

The WebSphere Business Integration portfolio now covers automotive, banking, chemical and petroleum, electronics, energy and utilities, financial markets, health care, insurance, life sciences & pharmaceutical, retail distribution and telecommunications. The Armonk, N.Y. firm also released new versions of its WebSphere Business Integration Event Broker and WebSphere Business Integration Message Broker applications.

Business integration software helps enterprises blend old legacy applications with newer software applications so that they don't have to rip and replace existing infrastructure. IBM's WebSphere Business Integration packages help firms simulate how business processes, integrate those processes, connect the processes with suppliers and customers and monitor them.

IBM's thrust has been to cover as many industries as possible in its competition with Tibco and webMethods and its portfolio grew 18 percent last quarter in part because it spanned many sectors. At a starting price of $225,000 for the integration products, adding new industries to lure more customers can prove very lucrative.

For example, Doug Brown, director of marketing, WebSphere Business Integration, said WebSphere Business Integration for Banking helps banking institutions offer steady customer service through a single view of the customer, and increase cross-selling by bridging the gap between delivery channels with customer relationship management and other systems. It also lets customers manage payments by integrating repeatable processes with disparate payments applications.

IBM has been announcing increased industry support for its integration portfolio every few months. The last announcement, issued in March, featured the first complete integration of IBM's Holosofx acquisition into the WebSphere Business Integration portfolio.

Brown said IBM has also released upgrades to WebSphere Business Integration Event Broker and WebSphere Business Integration Message Broker solutions, formerly known as MQ Event Broker and MQ Message Broker. These brokers deliver personalized information across a network in real-time. The user interfaces have been improved, but Brown said the tools are also now based on the Eclipse project framework so that they fully support XML schema.

Using the Eclipse-based brokers, customers can simply drag and drop to integrate applications making the connection of disparate systems to pipe information easier. Brown said the uses IBM brokers to track tennis matches on multiple courts simultaneously.

In related news, 32 IBM business partners are participating in the WebSphere Business Integration Accelerators for business partners initiative, a program that helps independent service providers, solutions providers and systems integrators develop business process software as well as offer their customers a way to integrate applications.