RealTime IT News

IBM Powers Up SMB On-Demand Push

NEW YORK -- Buoyed by the promise of great revenue potential from small- and medium-sized businesses, IBM announced a $200 million advertising campaign, new technology packages and research investments to boost its on-demand play.

The new offerings were the meat of an event held at the Museum of Natural History to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the company's strategy for linking partners, suppliers and customers with evolving business processes.

"Small and mid-sized businesses are the backbone of American growth," said Linda Sanford, IBM senior vice president of On Demand Transformation and Information Technology.

She said SMBs are choosing on-demand technologies to derive competitive advantages, sometimes in a sea of larger companies. Research firms such as AMI Partners believe the SMB market is worth $300 billion and growing, she said. IBM is looking to capitalize on this growth potential in the face of top rival HP, which has a division dedicated to serving SMBs.

Though Big Blue does not like to insert the word "technology" in its on-demand discussions, the company recognizes that to "enable this horizontal integration, technology is a must."

That technology, Sanford said, must be horizontally integrated, responsive and flexible, all automated and in real-time.

Marc Lautenbach, IBM general manager of Global Small and Medium Business, said IBM plans to push the On Demand Express Portfolio, which features more than 70 hardware, middleware, services and financing bundles by spending $200 million on advertising the SMB family this year.

That comes on top of the $300 million IBM has invested in helping partners sell to SMBs. By shelling out $500 million to promote technology and services, Big Blue is demonstrating the importance it places on catering to SMBS, which IBM officials said are spending "proportionately more than large enterprises on technology that enables on-demand business."

Lautenbach later led a customer panel in a discussion about how SMB customers are using IBM's hardware and software to stay competitive amidst a sea of larger companies.

Chris Dorsey, CIO of Chase-Pitkin, a small home furnishing company that competes with Home Depot and Lowe's, said his team uses DB2 Everyplace to link partners and suppliers, giving the sales force access to inventory information through wireless devices, such as handheld computers.

In another example, Jeff Wiseman, vice president of technology and informatics for Locus Pharmaceuticals, said his firm uses IBM's Linux on-demand grid software to power its algorithms used to make better drugs for health care.

Wiseman said network usage at Locus increased from 15 to 90 percent in one month of using IBM's products, giving the outfit more bang for its buck and helping the business compete with other pharmaceutical companies.

In a press statement, IBM detailed three new Express offerings to help SMBs connect normally walled off, siloed processes and applications using collaboration tools that let employees share data and documents in real time, a hallmark of on-demand computing as the Armonk, N.Y. concern defines it.

The Integrated Platform Express for Web Application Serving helps customers create Web sites and includes WebSphere Application Server Express running on IBM eServer pSeries. Plus, IBM is offering financing for the package, as well as options for IBM TotalStorage and DB2 Universal Database. This platform will be available later this year.

Process Integration Solution Express is an integration platform to help customers integrate internal processes and applications while shuttling data across the network in real time. This package, which starts as low as $2,259 per month, includes WebSphere Business Integration Server Express and IBM eServer xSeries or iSeries systems.

The company also hinted at the IBM Workplace Services Express, which will be available and priced later this year. This collaboration/portal software links people, applications and information through a Web browser.

Big Blue is also extending its tendrils in China, the leading market for the SMB space. IBM, which last week unveiled its China Research Lab (CRL), said it is extending the lab with the SMB Innovation Center.