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.

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