IBM has expanded its Web hosting service to include SAP AG, Siebel Systems and its own WebSphere Commerce applications, it said in a statement on Monday.
The Application Hosting Services will now let customers run SAP applications including SAP Enterprise Resource Planning and mySAP.com over the Web.
IBM is simply taking advantage of SAP's shift to a browser-based front end, Bob Berg, IBM's manager of new service offerings, said on Monday.
"We're offering what they do, plus a bit more. We offer support for all cross-industry and vertical-industry offerings, and have developed some vertical products of our own that have been certified by SAP. We are a strategic partner and already do a lot of work with SAP. It makes sense to combine our custom SAP hosting service with a more general hosting service."
Support will be available from IBM's Application Operation Centres worldwide, based at the company's data centres in the US, Europe and Japan, he said. "We have set up international centres of competency for the SAP offering and have the largest number of SAP-skilled people outside of SAP itself," he said.
The company's centres of competency are based in San Mateo, California, and La Gaude and Montpelier in France, Berg said.
The Siebel offering includes Siebel 7 general and industry-specific applications for customers wanting to set up Web-enabled customer management platforms.
For both Siebel and SAP, IBM is concentrating on those customers who have "already made the SAP or Siebel decision", and now want to upgrade without the expense of new hardware, software and training that would be needed, he said. "We can provide the infrastructure and skills through the transition and then they can decide whether to use a hosted application."
Hosting can be cheaper than running in-house systems, typically by 30 per cent, Berg said. "But that varies by customer. And even if it costs more, the customer may see the value of having their people concentrate on their own business instead of the migration to new software."
The WebSphere hosting offers pre-designed platforms for WebSphere Application Server 4.0 or WebSphere Commerce Professional Edition 5.4, located at IBM's e-business hosting centres. It lets smaller companies set up e-commerce sites quickly and easily, and new monitoring reporting and server options are available, the company said.
WebSphere is particularly attractive to smaller and medium-sized companies, but can scale to work with any operation, Berg said.
IBM's global financial operations will be attractive to smaller users, because they can escape the up-front one-off costs for the applications and for hosting with a multi-year lease, Berg said.