Last week's IBM Solutions 99 was designed to be a Mecca for developers interested in Java and Linux and a launching pad for the more commercially minded into the wide world of e-business.
The show floor was packed with offerings from Web developers, of which German-based Worklab won the Best Web Site award; Java players, with Advanced Computer Systems from Korea taking out the Hot Java Solution award; and of course e-business fanatics, with Shanghai BOKE software winning the award in that category.
Not to be outdone by its partners, IBM announced a number of upgrades, products and packages to further facilitate the growth of e-commerce, in particular the dominance of its own E-business Application Framework.
According to Steve Mills, general manager, IBM software, businesses are entering a new era of server-based needs. Yet they don't care what servers are used. "We have had to develop a strategy based around the infrastructure that focuses more on applications and integration than products," announced Mills in his keynote speech.
In this vein IBM announced upgrades to its application server software in the form of WebSphere Enterprise Edition 3.0; its DB2 Universal database Version 6.1; new versions of traffic control software Net.Commerce 3.2; and a new range of hosting software including SecureWay Host on demand V4, SecureWay Screen Customiser V1 and SecureWay Host Publisher V2.
Yet it was alliances and interoperability that IBM were most focused on at Solutions 99. For this reason IBM launched developerWorks -- a portal still in beta phase featuring information on Linux, Java, Unicode and other industry issues -- with the goal of being the site that developers, regardless of proprietary preferences, will come to every day.
Bob Timpson, general manager, solution developer marketing, is adamant that the Web site is a source of information and advice, not an advertisement for IBM. "This site has stuff on XML, zones on security and some other very cool stuff. It has content and hot links to sources of information that developers want to know about."
Yet he also acknowledges that the Web site is IBM's "face to the development community", admitting that in such a monolithic company as IBM it is not always easy to stay in contact with the right people. "We can get some instant feedback from our developers, not only on beta stuff that we push through the site but also on what the industry is thinking and feeling," explained Timpson.
Timpson believes that the site, built on IBM's AlphaWorks, represents a change of attitude by the giant multinational to be more inclusive and sensitive to the individual developer rather than corporations. "Individuals have an interest in a broad spectrum of issues and have a build-to-use mentality as opposed to a build-to-sell motivation."
The recognition of this has been a long time coming, even though the number of individual developers dwarfs the number of development firms. "There were a lot of people we weren't reaching, and those were the ones who decide 70 per cent of the architecture on new software around the world."
According to Timpson, the establishment of three more Solution Partner Centres in Tokyo, Paris and Chicago, taking the tally up to 15, and the increase in staff at existing centres, is a further sign of IBM's commitment to global developers. "We needed to make sure that developers have easy access to technical support," explained Timpson of the expansion.
Developers appear to have responded to IBM's support strategies with a rapid uptake of both e-business initiatives for their own enablement and the development of applications with IBM. "E-business is so huge and pervasive that no one company can do it all. IBM's traditional fortress mentality has been blown away and now it is all about partners, integration and open standards," Timpson said.