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IBM Bakes Up a Big Batch of 'Express' Offerings

Integrating disparate applications is about as difficult as baking a cake from scratch. If you have the base ingredients and can prepare them as directed, it's pretty easy to make a white cake into chocolate, or orange, or cherry, for that matter. It's also pretty easy to make cupcakes. When it comes to integration technologies, IBM's Express offerings are the cake mix, and the many modules are different flavors of the same recipe. Keeping with the analogy, today IBM released 10 new recipes for cupcakes — vertical Express offerings that taste like on-demand computing for mid-sized businesses.

Today's new offerings are the latest set in a growing portfolio of Express products. IBM was challenged to take the best of its enterprise-class database offerings, reconfigure them, and offer integrated solutions at a palatable price for SMBs. The fruits of its labors resulted in IBM's first Express offerings that were made available in June.

Debra Thompson, IBM vice president of global marketing for SMBs, said the stand-alone products allowed IBM to deliver the right features and functions packaged specifically for SMBs. Now IBM is moving on to the second and third part of its SMB strategy, taking these stand-alone products down to the infrastructure level, and building on-demand solutions for specific industries.

"Medium-sized businesses have similar types of requirements as larger corporations, but they usually need a quicker return on their investment and their IT skills are lower." Thompson said. "They tend to land on an integrated solution approach to managing their business, rather than building a best-of-breed solution. Technology requirements and integration capabilities define what on-demand computing means to the mid-market."

Thompson said there are internal and external pressures that are forcing the mid-market to evolve. External pressures include being a cog in wheel of a supply chain management system with a larger corporation in a business-to-business (B2B) environment, as well as living up to customers e-commerce expectations in a business-to-consumer (B2C) setting. Meanwhile, small businesses must also contend with internal pressures, such as using multiple operating systems. This business scenario demands a different response than an off-the-shelf solution in order to make Intel and Windows play nice with UNIX and Linux.

"According to our studies 70 percent of medium-sized businesses are supporting multi-vendor systems consisting of Windows, UNIX, and Linux," Thompson said. "This is why our Express portfolio evolved from first delivering business-enabling products, and now operating systems and industry-specific solutions."

Express Yourself
IBM's Express lineup is designed to meet the needs of on-demand businesses and include new WebSphere software for integrating business processes, a service for information management through Web analytics, independent software vendor (ISV) solutions and Express Ready eServer systems, as well as storage solutions and ThinkPads.

IBM's new Express offerings include:

  • WebSphere Business Integration - Express for Item Synchronization: This Express offering is specifically designed to help medium-sized businesses link their supply chain information to the UCCnet GLOBALregistry. The registry automates the codes used to identify and describe products. Many retailers are using the UCCnet standard; most notably Wal-Mart is requiring its 8,000 North American suppliers to conform to UCCnet standards. WebSphere Business Integration - Express for Item Synchronization is standards-based, meaning it can also be used to integrate item information with other emerging standards that other retailers may use. Starting at $7,000 the new offering will be available next week on the Windows platform and on remaining platforms like OS/400 and Linux in December.

  • DB2 Content Manager Express: Designed to help medium-sized businesses manage data and digital assets, this solution enables customers to capture, manage, store, and protect all forms of business information while delivering content to users when and where they need it. The new software helps simplify and automate content management requirements such as installation and configuration to help ease the burden of administration for smaller IT departments. IBM's DB2 Content Manager Express can be installed with a single mouse-click and incorporates self-managing capabilities to help smaller businesses streamline their content management systems. The new software is generally available as now and is priced at $9,375 per server plus $1,063 per concurrent user.

  • IBM SurfAid Express: Medium-sized businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on business intelligence to determine future investments and strategies. Many of these businesses use their public website as a tool to collect vital information about their customers and their buying habits. IBM SurfAid Express allows medium-sized businesses to understand and track buyer behavior on the Web. The new service provides rapid feedback in on-site traffic, marketing campaigns, visitor geographies, site navigation, site design effectiveness, visitor loyalty and site stickiness. IBM SurfAid Express is available now IBM Global Services; pricing starts at $100 a month.

  • IBM Life Sciences Express Solution for SAS: This industry-specific middleware and hardware bundle is geared toward emerging companies focused on bringing new life sciences breakthroughs to market quickly. Mid-sized life sciences firms are dealing with growing amounts of data and are looking for efficient ways to better manage vital business information. IBM has teamed with SAS to deliver a complete packaged solution. The IBM SAS BioBundle Express is a combination of SAS's application software called Base SAS coupled with IBM eServer pSeries and xSeries servers. The complete offering is available in US this week; pricing starts at $33,370 for select platforms.

  • IBM Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Express: This offering is made for medium-sized manufacturers that are challenged by high operating costs due to a lack of coordination between internal resources, remote assets, and a global supply chain. IBM PLM Express enables mid-sized manufacturers to reuse parts, simplify product complexity, streamline bid preparation and provide improved product maintenance. IBM PLM Express offers four packaged solutions based on SMARTEAM from Dassault Systemes and includes IBM WebSphere Application Server Express, IntelliStations and eServer systems.

  • IBM Express Ready Offerings: An essential part of any solution in the mid-market is reliable, innovative and affordable hardware platforms. IBM has introduced Express Ready hardware that is engineered for the mid-market and will be incorporated into IBM and Business Partner solutions in the broader IBM Express portfolio. These solutions include eServer systems like the xSeries 225, pSeries 615 and iSeries 800, as well as storage hardware like the FAStT200.

  • IBM Think Express Program: This hardware offering includes Express models of ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktop personal computers. IBM's ThinkVantage Technologies include the new Active Protection System — an "airbag for notebooks" that helps protect data if a ThinkPad T41 or R50 notebook is dropped — and Rapid Restore Ultra — the ability to quickly restore data, applications and settings after a software failure. ThinkPad Express models start at $849, with new Express models, ThinkPad R50 and T41, starting at $1,669. ThinkCentre Express desktop models start at $449.

Linux-Layered Cake
Medium-sized enterprises are looking beyond their own business processes to see where integration with their suppliers, partners and customers can help fulfill their business objectives. IBM market research indicates medium business spending on integration is growing faster than the market as a whole, and more than half of midsize companies are making investments in integration. As a result, IBM is taking back share in the mid-market. IBM financial reports indicate that the company grew its SMB revenue by six percent in the first quarter of this year, nine percent in the second quarter, and nearly 17 percent in the third. However, IBM is not making these gains alone.

More than 100 ISVs worldwide have joined IBM's ISV Advantage initiative, a significant milestone for the company that relies on its partners to deliver integrated solutions to the mid-market. As a key delivery channel for IBM's Express product portfolio, ISV Advantage is designed to help smaller software vendors increase their revenue opportunities and grow market share on IBM middleware by providing extensive technical, marketing and sales support.

The latest group of ISVs to join the ISV Advantage initiative include: ACCPAC, Ascendant Technolog, hybris, and GridNode, among others. ISVs that enable their applications on IBM's infrastructure software can provide medium-sized businesses with solutions that span multiple computing platforms, including Linux, an approach that contrasts with other proprietary software systems.

Currently, more than half of the ISV Advantage participants are actively supporting IBM's software running on Linux. This is particularly important to the mid-market, which has a definitive taste for Linux-based systems. Thompson said 35 percent of medium-sized businesses prefer Linux for its security, reliability, and flexibility. With Linux as a critical ingredient in IBM's portfolio of Express offerings, mid-sized businesses can have their cake and eat it, too.

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