IBM Courts SMBs With iSeries

IBM's iSeries platform has been a backbone of enterprise networks for years, but company officials said the technology needs a push to return it to the forefront of IT managers' minds.

IBMs venerable iSeries platform has been a backbone of enterprise networks for years, but company officials said the technology needs a push to return it to the forefront of IT managers minds.

"This year, one of the top priorities is revitalizing the ecosystem of solution providers and resellers and systems integrators in support of the iSeries to reaffirm its position as a business solution for SMBs [small and midsize businesses]," said Mark Shearer, general manager of the iSeries.

Last year, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., enhanced the capabilities of the iSeries, once known as the AS/400. iSeries systems were among the first to transition to the Power5 processor. In July, IBM introduced i5/OS, the latest iSeries operating system.

This year, IBM is building up the software offerings and bundles around the iSeries and educating customers about the platforms benefits, Shearer said.

The company is spending tens of millions of dollars in print and radio advertisements promoting its "Why i?" campaign, and it has rolled out programs designed to persuade software makers to port their applications to the iSeries. With the iSeries Initiative for Innovation, IBM is offering about 2,500 ISVs and developers an average of $50,000 in services—including access to IBM experts and five new global centers—to create offerings for iSeries users.

Shearer, who was on the road for 10 of his first 12 weeks on the job—which he started in January—is also meeting with partners and customers.

In promoting the iSeries to SMBs, IBM is stressing that the platforms integrated middleware and applications and its ability to run multiple operating systems—i5/OS, Linux, Windows and AIX—in one box is what smaller businesses need. "The basic trends—toward business solutions, toward IT simplification, toward consolidation—are right over the sweet spot of what the iSeries always has been good at," Shearer said.

The platform faces strong competition from x86 systems, but Shearer said the market segment is big enough to let the iSeries compete, which is important as IBM tries to grow the platforms revenues.

Mike McLaughlin, an analyst with Gartner Inc., said IBM has made the right move in redirecting the iSeries toward the SMB space, where customers are looking for choice in their data centers. "The iSeries has had a metamorphosis," said McLaughlin in San Jose, Calif. "Its gone from playing in the high end of the RISC space now toward the SMB market."

Nigel Fortlage, vice president of IT for Canadian brokerage house GHY International, said its important for iSeries users to have IBM aggressively pushing the platform.

"Nobody likes to play in the sandbox by themselves," said Fortlage in Winnipeg, Manitoba. "From a technology standpoint, the Rochester [Minn., iSeries engineering] team has been moving appropriately ahead of what I need. Its the messaging that has been lacking until today. Users like myself very much want to see new stuff coming on board."


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