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IBM Rolls New Middleware With ISV Network

IBM is rolling out new middleware packages with built-in development tools for customers with a little help from its friends.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based company said a host of new software development packages being released this week are focused on the healthcare, life sciences, retail and telecommunications industries.

Big Blue is also bolstering its lineup with partners to help plug in extra functions to the applications, such as third-party billing systems for telecommunications carriers as they enable customers to download content or access corporate databases using handheld devices.

The idea is to offer mobile middleware that helps customers in targeted vertical industries extend applications to devices from backend systems, IBM officials said.

The news comes amid IBM's PartnerWorld event taking place in Las Vegas this week, where the company shines a spotlight on key players in its business model: independent software vendors, or ISVs.

Scott Hebner, vice president of marketing and strategy for ISV and Developer Relations for IBM, is planning to announce a number of the new ISV initiatives Tuesday, including bringing in ISVs to help telecommunications customers new billing procedures to their systems, an IBM official said.

IBM's middleware packages are designed to solve industry-specific business problems for specific industries, said Doug Brown, director of industry marketing for IBM's software group.

Take the tools for telcos. The package includes five software platforms that focus on operational/business support system optimization, contact center optimizer, mobile services delivery, partner content enabler and next generation network services, IBM said.

Many of the telecommunications customers "need to take costs out of structure and at same time find new sources for growth," Brown told internetnews.com.

For example, the WebSphere Everyplace Access software packages would help customers in the telecommunications and health care industries provide remote employees wireless access to a range of enterprise data from corporate portals. It also incorporates IBM's Instant Messaging functions through its Lotus messaging modules.

But while the new IBM modules do not include application functionality to help third-party providers bill telecommunications providers and their customers for functions they download, the new ISV network IBM is lining up does. Executives from Callidus Software and Evant are also planning to join IBM in the new ISV network it is announcing Tuesday.

For the retail sector, Brown said the new middleware packages feature six modules that help customers integrate with trading partners, manage store inventory and store performance, track shipments with wireless radio frequency identification technology, support multiple sales and fulfillment channels and streamline store operations procedures.

The new packages are Retail Merchandising, Item Management, Advertising, Marketing and Promotions; Inventory Management; Multi Channel Management, and Store Operations. The Store Operations package, for example, has been enhanced to help store managers quickly access information about employee performance, drive scheduling and task management, support consistent in-store promotions, and provide e-learning classes aligned to the industry, IBM said.

In tandem with the new modules for retail, the new additions to the ISV community involved in providing complementary applications for IBM's Lotus Workplace messaging platform in order to include Scene7, StorePerform and SkillSoft Corporation.

For the health care sector, IBM has rolled out five software offerings that focus on managing costs, (including labor costs), pharmaceuticals and technology, while focusing on improving patient safety and quality of care.

The packages include Healthcare Collaborative Network, Patient-centric Healthcare Portal, Clinical Decision Intelligence, Payer Services Portal and Health Plan Administration.

In the life sciences sector, many of the IT demands are about managing regulatory compliance, business processes, storage and security, IBM said.

In that regard, the new packages for the sector are titled Corporate Information Asset Management, Investigator Recruitment and Trials Management, Clinical Genomics, Clinical Trials Management, and Annotations and Knowledge Sharing.

The latest middleware modules for targeted vertical industries come after IBM announced similar targeted packages for the financial services sector, including markets, banking and insurance.

Next up on the middleware drawing board: automotive, consumer products, electronics, and government industries.

All of the packages combine four optional elements for customers: IBM middleware technology from its five software brands (WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli, Lotus and Rational), industry-specific middleware, industry-specific services expertise from IBM and others, and industry-specific application software from IBM's network of independent software vendor (ISVs) partners.