IBM Makes Play for Small, Midsize Businesses

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-06-25

IBM Makes Play for Small, Midsize Businesses

NEW YORK—IBM Wednesday announced a new portfolio of products and services aimed specifically at the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market, including new software, hardware, services and financing offerings.

At an event here, the computer systems giant announced its bid to tap the $300 billion SMB marketplace.

"By sheer weight, the SMB market is one of the most important markets," said Marc Lautenbach, general manager of global small and medium business at IBM. According to analyst reports, Lautenbach said, the SMB market spends up to 60 percent of its budget on services, 30 percent on hardware and 10 percent on software.

IBM announced that its new offerings for the SMB market will go by the name Express and are aimed at medium-sized businesses—companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees.

As part of its Express software portfolio, IBM announced WebSphere Commerce Express, a smaller scale version of the WebSphere application server and DB2-Express. The company also announced WebSphere MQ-Express, a small-business version of IBMs MQ Series connectivity and integration software. WebSphere Commerce Express will start at $20,000 and will be available Sept. 30. WebSphere MQ-Express will start at $4,180 and will be available in the fourth quarter, said Mark Ouellette, vice president of IBMs worldwide SMB software sales.

The two new offerings join WebSphere Application Server Express, DB2 Express and WebSphere Portal Express, which IBM announced late last year.

Meanwhile, Ouellette gave a hint of future directions—"a sneak preview of the fall line," he joked. The company is looking to deliver Item Synchronization Express, Content Manager Express and a runtime beta—a modularized version of the IBM middleware stack, which will consist of runtime components to support ISV applications.

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IBM also announced a new IBM eServer Integrated Platform Express for Employee Workplace solution, a workplace portal solution for companies with 100 to 250 employees in configurations for such industries as retail, distribution, banking and health care. The Linux-based solution includes an IBM eServer xSeries 255 system with WebSphere Portal Express and starts at $35,000 for 20 users.

ISVs continue to join IBMs ISV Advantage program, which is the companys push to partner with ISVs to help meet the needs of the SMB market, officials said.

Frank Vitagliano, vice president of distribution channels management in IBMs Personal Computing Division, said the company also Wednesday announced "13 new models designed specifically for SMB," including models with wireless connectivity and other features.

IBM also announced new services solutions including hosted and fixed-price offerings for the SMB market. The company announced the IBM Wholesale Distribution Solution for SAP, an offering that supports the SAP AG enterprise resources planning platform and starts at $300,000, said Elaine Lennox, a director in the IBM small and medium business group.

Lautenbach said IBMs SMB portfolio is "a product of what weve been seeing over the last 10 years. Its not a PC strategy, a services strategy, an operating systems strategy or a server strategy, but an integrated business strategy that, from our perspective, is like no other."

In fact, said Lautenbach, the new products are "designed for medium business; this is not a one-size-fits-all strategy." He said the solutions being announced include "a set of offerings designed from the customer backward."

Lennox said the hallmark of the new offerings is that they must be easy to install, easy to learn and use, easy to manage, modular, enabled for growth, and priced for medium businesses, among other things. There are a lot of autonomic or self-healing capabilities built into the products, she said.

Also on hand at the event were a couple of customers. Dr. Peter Vonu, lead practitioner at the Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads in Hampton Roads, Va., said the IBM WebSphere Portal Express solution that Ascendant Technology Inc., of Austin, Texas, installed in his offices has made life easier for him and his partners as well as their patients. In addition to helping manage patient flow and comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, the solution "has paid for itself very rapidly," Vonu said. "Well see a return on investment of $250,000 to $500,000 in a years time."

Blair Hopkins, the Cambridge, Mass.-based chief technology officer at Ascendant, said the system at Vonus offices has served as a driver for additional SMB business for his company.

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