How IBM Adds Value
for Customers"> For his part, Handy said that IBM is the largest supplier of services on Microsoft Windows, and is one of the largest resellers of HP and Sun Microsystems Inc. equipment, "because in the end we do what the customer wants us to do. Solving their problems is where the value creation lies in the relationship," he said. Read more here about IBMs rocky relationship with Sun."We are getting more aggressive about open source, as there is an energy around it and we want to tap that energy and have it drive the acceleration of open standards that create an open environment where our solutions become applicable to a wider number of customers," he said. IBM is in the business of providing value on top of open standards, including industry-specific standards, and is aware that the line will creep and that it has to keep providing the value the customers are paying for, he said. Asked if this was not much the same strategy as the one Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash., is adopting, Handy said Microsofts strategy is more of a product alignment and a focus on product-specific bundles for an industry, whereas IBMs approach is to identify a customer or industry pain point and then put together a solution that solves that problem. To read more about Microsofts vertical plans, click here. Jean Bozman, an analyst with International Data Corp. in San Mateo, Calif., said the IBM move was also significant in that it indicates that many open-source applications are now deeply embedded in customer infrastructures. IBMs Handy termed this a "valid point," saying, "As soon as we shifted to an open-standards-based strategy, that allowed others to have compatible products to those standards, which is why customers like them. We do have to recognize these other implementations of standards." Bozman said, "The customer is clearly in the driving seat and increasingly wants certain open-source components as part of their solution stack. IBM is responding to that and is trying to embrace a wider set of customers by including more open-source technologies and processes in its own solution stacks and across the multiple hardware platforms it supports. "While IBMs own proprietary products still remain a very important component of those solution stacks, it is now clearly showing its willingness to include other technologies if these help address customer problems. I dont see this as being disruptive to them selling their own middleware and hardware; in fact, it might be beneficial [as it may help in] growing the customer base," she said. Handy agreed that customers are not just interested in software, but are looking for a total solution, which was the rationale for IBMs industry-aligned move. "We found that IBM was already doing this solutions work as part of its On Demand work, creating industry-specific solutions. So the decision was made to make Linux an integral part of all those solutions; and this resulted in the reorganization of the Linux team around this business, but not before we tested this out for six months by aligning and challenging some staff to sell this model," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
But Handy acknowledged that there are other industries and groups that IBMs solution sets do not yet cover, saying that those would come later.