IBM aims new programs at SMBs

Trying to further deepen its commitment to its business partners and independent software developers (ISVs), IBM this week rolled out a handful of new programs and technologies to help them better provide IBM-based solutions to IT shops both large and small.

And putting its money where its technology is, the company continued its push into the small and medium-size business (SMB) market, earmarking over the course of 2004 some US$500 million for those business partners and ISVs going after those markets. The money will help them with demand generation, education, teaming, and various sales incentives and enablement programs.

One of the initiatives announced on Tuesday aims to help generate new revenue for partners by giving them a series of tools to automate their users' IT environments. IBM officials believe the tools will help partners address two of their most common IT problems: over dependence on manual processes and low utilization of IT resources.

As one example at Tuesday's press briefing, IBM officials noted that any change to a user's IT infrastructure requires a series of manually driven tasks, such as a company wanting to deploy a new finance application. In order to carry that off, the company must update its operating systems, reconfigure its network, and perhaps attach storage devices and provision or re-provision servers.

But by being able to automate those tasks, an end-user company can significantly reduce such a project from days to minutes, IBM officials claimed. This can be carried out with a "workflow," or logical sequence of steps to install and reconfigure any particular resource, they said.

To make this happen, IBM is launching its Orchestration and Provisioning Automation Library (OPAL). OPAL's purpose is to foster an ecosystem for business partners to share IT best practices and workflows for a number of different systems and sub-systems.

In creating workflows and orchestration for provisioning, ISVs and systems integrators can link themselves more closely to IBM's On Demand strategies. IBM has signed up several business partners to participate in OPAL including Citrix Systems Inc., DataSynapse Inc., and VMWare Inc.

Big Blue also announced an initiative to help business partners and ISVs deliver better business performance management (BPM) solutions to their joint customers. The new BPM offerings include business processes information and IT resources and can serve to better align a user's core assets, namely people, information, and processes.

"We think BPM combines business intelligence, business integration, service management, and intelligent orchestration, which is where we have lived for some time now," said Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and group executive with IBM's Software Group.

As part of this initiative, IBM is now constructing a BPM "ecosystem." This ecosystems will be made up of a set of business partner frameworks and a software development toolkit that will help IBM work with partners to offer more specific vertical solutions.

IBM continued is aggressive push in to the SMB space unveiling new enablement resources and initiatives and tools to help business partners and ISVs create and sell industry-specific On Demand-flavored solutions tailored for SMBs. The resources will make it easier to build and deploy repeatable solutions for technology architectures used mainly by mid-size companies.