RealTime IT News

BT To Serve Up Provisioned Apps in IBM Pilot

IBM Wednesday said it was teaming with British Telecom on a development platform that will help BT roll out, provision and host specialized applications for small and medium business (SMB) clients in the UK.

The pilot program, reflective of the trend of offering specialized applications "on demand," will pick up where IBM and BT left off with Online Collaboration, a hosted group messaging and collaboration service they launched last spring. As one of the largest providers of hosted IBM Lotus software applications in Europe, BT counts more than 1.2 million small business customers that use the collaboration tools for instant messaging, group messaging and document sharing, for example.

Now, the companies are gearing up to test and deploy a wider range of applications for BT to offer its business broadband customers, such as order fulfillment, service agreement management, billing, rating and metering -- and offered on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The pilot effectively moves the provisioning craze up a notch in a network stack by taking the practice of partitioning the application server and moving it to the actual application. The goal is to create specialized software as a service that can be hosted in the pay-as-you-go, utility model of on-demand computer services that IBM and other major tech vendors have been selling customers in the past six months.

If it sounds like just a newfangled way to talk about serving up software to a customer, ASP style, an IBM official said the concept is different, and involves finding a way to launch and provision services in a way that is cost efficient and effective.

BT will be able to provision select applications, as opposed to a whole OSS (operation support systems) which tends to be the norm and more hosting than the client often needs, said Joe Ziskin, Vice President of global telecommunications industry for IBM. "And it doesn't cost as much to launch the service."

The pilot program with BT marks one of the first telcos that is piloting IBM's platform for delivering and monitoring hosted software services over the Web.

IBM also recently signed an outsourcing deal with BellSouth, which includes some development of on-demand services. In all likelihood, the on-demand collaboration could very well include rapid-application programs similar to ones under development in the BT trial.

Ziskin said the key to the program will be the use of its Service Provider Delivery Environment (SPDE), which uses IBM's DB2 database software and its WebSphere middleware for integrating other applications. The SPDE ("speedy") platform helps telecommunications service providers introduce new, revenue-generating voice, text and Internet services to customers, usually for lower cost.

He said by linking the IBM technology with its Online Collaboration service, BT can test applications using the J2EE industry standard, allowing it to introduce and integrate applications from a wider range of software vendors in addition to Lotus messaging and collaborative applications.

"It can be economically challenging to run multiple support for multiple development environments," Ziskin said. "This is a road map for how to create applications on demand."

Neil Lock, head of Lotus applications at BT Ignite, BT's business services and solutions division, said the goal of the pilot is to test the process of delivering a wider range of applications for the telco's managed Lotus applications, and evaluate service enhancements at the same time.

"Our aim is to help smaller companies enjoy the benefits of corporate class productivity tools via a low-cost adoption model, and to give them the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions," Lock said.