IBM Pumps Up xSP Prime Program

Looking to further establish its place in the hearts and minds of developers, independent software vendors (ISVs) and service providers that focus on small and medium businesses (SMB), IBM today announced new features for its xSP Prime Program.

Over the last two years, more than 450 applications have been certified through the xSP Prime program, according to Ronda Siegel, xSP Prime program manager. However, Big Blue sees more opportunities ahead by helping partners reach the potentially lucrative SMB market. IBM cites research from IDC that reports the IT market for SMBs will reach over $300 billion this year.

According to Siegel, four features highlight the new xSP Prime services:

  • a “lite” version of IBM Business Development Workshops
  • a series of technical “hot topics” workshops to help providers and developers plan for growth
  • a Web-based tool that matches customers, developers and service providers with xSP Prime Hosting partners
  • complementary technical consulting through xSP Prime Online.

The IBM Business Design Workshop “lite” series consists of two-hour pre-packaged versions of 1-2 day workshops originally announced in August. The workshops are designed to allow service providers to validate key aspects of their business plan against industry benchmarks, while recognizing and addressing potential gaps. The IBM-labeled “lite” sessions are offered by program managers at xSP Prime centers to qualified members of xSP Prime for Developers program.

The condensed approach will “allow more partners to avail themselves of the workshops. We can train more people,” Rajiv Bawa, Global Business area leader, xSP Markets, told ASPnews. The two-hour sessions will also provide feedback and direction to, for example, help an ISV determine whether it should become an ASP itself or partner with a service provider to offer its software as a service, Bawa said.

The IBM xSP Prime Technology Strategy workshop program has been expanded, said Siegel, “to offer more specialized strategy on a laundry list of topics.” Service providers can review architectural models (particularly important in the dawn of Web services) and define the right infrastructure. Other topics include Linux, security, and provisioning and billing.

“The workshops help growing xSPs address scalability issues — here’s where you are today. Here’s where you want to be tomorrow. Here’s what you need to get there,” Bawa told ASPnews.

To help ISVs, ASPs and other partners or customers hook up with an IBM xSP Prime-certified Hosting Partners, IBM now offers a Web-based matching tool to locate a Premier-level partner in their geographic area or find one matching specific criteria.

To be part of the program, Siegel said, Web hosting providers must have achieved Premier status, a process she describes as “rigorous.” IBM performs a 1-2 day on-site audit of a hosting provider to determine how it has prepared for capacity planning, security, backup and recovery, performance and customer support. Thirteen providers have been certified in the United States, said Siegel. Premier hosting providers have also been certified in Europe in Asia.

Companies looking to deploy services and are considering joining the IBM xSP Prime for Developers program can now take advantage of a complementary two-hour qualification consultation through xSP Prime Online. After completing an online form, IBM says, a business and technical representative will schedule time with the company for a two-hour consultation.

IBM’s three-year-old service provider program was originally called ASP Prime, but last August, IBM expanded and renamed the program to offer technical, marketing and business services to a broader range of providers and software vendors.

The company is in San Fransico this week for its IBM Developer Works Live! show.

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