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IBM Aims to Build Wireless Ecosystem

Pushing to become a key player in the market for wireless enterprise infrastructure, IBM Monday used the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France as a platform to unveil a slew of new wireless infrastructure products and strategic alliances.

The key component in IBM's strategy is the Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment (WEDE), a framework for the interconnection of wireless networks and enterprise systems which dovetails with Big Blue's existing Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE) and will help companies provide end-to-end mobile solutions for their customers and mobile workforces.

The SPDE is a software, hardware, and services play which aims to give wireless and wireline telecommunications service providers the flexibility to introduce new voice, text and Internet-based services to their customers faster, easier and at lower cost. The WEDE goes a step further by taking those capabilities and putting them into the hands of the enterprise.

WEDE details the horizontal infrastructure required to provide a common development and deployment platform that allows companies to rapidly and cost-effectively support new applications -- including mobile sales and field force automation, e-mail access, asset monitoring, supply chain management and mobile commerce -- and also to provide access to new devices and networks.

It is based on the standards advocated by the Open Mobile Architecture (OMA) initiative, which attempts to specify common interfaces and technology enablers used by every company in the mobile telecommunications industry. It focuses on the interoperability of mobile services across terminals, operators and markets. It utilizes a mobile extension for Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE) based application servers.

"We no longer see the operating system as the center of the universe," Ozzie Osborne, vice president of Strategic Alliances, IBM Pervasive Computing Division, told internetnews.com. "What we're looking at is a layer across it." He added, "The hardware layer here is transparent to us. There's nothing that really goes down to that layer. Wireless, 802.11, wired -- it shouldn't matter to us."

To support the platform, IBM has established two Wireless Enterprise Labs: one in Raleigh, North Carolina, and one in LaGaude, France. The two labs will implement the Wireless Enterprise Delivery Environment using IBM and its business partners' software and hardware. IBM said its business partners will be able to use the labs as a testbed to integrate components into wireless solutions based on the WEDE.

A host of IBM partners are building on the WEDE's foundation to provide their own solutions. At 3GSM, IBM and Nokia plan to demonstrate standards-based solutions -- built on WEDE, WebSphere Infrastructure, and Nokia's business terminal platforms -- designed to help companies mobilize their business processes. The two partners said they also plan to develop and implement joint solutions across a range of Nokia business terminals, including the Nokia 6800, and Symbian-based devices like the Nokia 9210i Communication and Nokia 7650. IBM also plans to develop and deploy its WebSphere Everyplace Access client for the Symbian platform.

Big Blue is also collaborating with Sony Ericsson to provide secure end-to-end solutions with advanced mobile handsets, intended to accelerate business usage.

It also unveiled an end-to-end middleware solution with Wavecom, geared to providing enterprise users and network operators simpler and more efficient connections between different machines across the IT ecosystem. The solution embeds IBM's MQIsdp messaging protocol onto the Wavecom Wireless Module, allowing it to transform data from handsets and other devices so that it matches the data requirements of other enterprise mobile applications. IBM said the wireless modules can be integrated into a number of devices ranging from vending machines to electricity meters and industrial appliances.

IBM worked with Alcatel to create a solution that will give mobile workers access to back-end applications from their laptops or PDAs over multiple networks with seamless services continuity. The solution builds on Alcatel's GPRS, WLAN and ADSL access offerings and IBM's WebSphere and Lotus software.

Another partner is SFR, which combined its GPRS data offering with IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager to facilitate cross-network roaming that allows mobile users to switch between a wired network and GPRS without having to restart applications/

It also unveiled isMobile Blå Coordinator suite, a joint effort with mobile field force automation specialist isMobile and Midray (a Debitel company in the Swisscom Group which provides mobile services to the business market from mobile network providers like Vodafone and T-Mobile), which enables companies with mobile workforces to increase their service efficiency and reduce their work order cost.

Palm refused to be left out. It announced the availability of IBM's Lotus Domino Everyplace Access Server and Lotus Sametime Everyplace on its new PalmTungsten W handheld.

While much of IBM's attention at 3GSM is focused on the enterprise, it also had several new offerings for the service provider market, including extensions to the existing IBM Rapid IP Services for e-business Solution (WebSphere Everyplace Subscription Manager, WebSphere Business Integration for Telecommunications, DB2, and WebSphere Portal) in an effort to address service provider needs in delivering public wireless LANs. It also unveiled an integrated WAP 2 platform based on Openwave's Mobile Access Gateway 6 and WebSphere Application Server, Portal Server, DB2 database software, pSeries e-Servers and storage. IBM said the platform will give operators the ability to drive lower costs and faster product cycle times.

IBM also launched an on-demand wireless e-business solution with Smartner, based on WebSphere Everyplace middleware and IBM servers. The strategy is to reduce the total cost of ownership for mobile office solutions with simple, rapid deployment, and highly scalable mobile access of e-mail servers from a variety of devices.

Big Blue is also developing a solution with InfoSpace which will target the mobile professional by unifying general and vertical industry information services, navigation and other location-based services, and availability management services into a single offering which delivers to mobile phones. The solution will include InfoSpace's managed service offering for mobile push-messaging, WebSphere Portal running at the wireless carrier, and WebSphere Everyplace Access running at the enterprise behind the firewall and interfacing with Lotus Notes or other enterprise information systems.

Finally, the company established the Developer Center for Telecom and e-business in an effort to support WebSphere Telecom Application Server. The center gives IBM partners a place to leverage Big Blue's development facilities, test applications in a network environment, and explore new channels for products.