IBM Grows Express Advantage

Initiative targets the SMB market with a three-pronged strategy.

IBM is introducing a host of hardware, software and services as it continues to fill out its Express Advantage program aimed at the midmarket.

The Armonk, N.Y., company has targeted the small and midsize business space as a key growth area. Its a market that stands at about $226 billion, said Elaine Case, director of express and influencer marketing for the Global SMB organization at IBM, during a press conference Oct. 24.

The Express Advantage initiative, introduced at the IBM PartnerWorld show in March, is designed to provide customers and partners with complete solutions—hardware, software and services—that are easy to deploy, manage and buy.

According to Case, the program offers a three-pronged strategy: solutions designed with the needs of SMBs in mind, third-party partners providing a local face to IBM and its technologies, and offering customers a positive experience.

"The market [served by the Express Advantage program] is totally in SMB … and the sweet spot is the midmarket," Case said.

One IBM partner said the companys efforts in this area enable him to offer customers products and services that he otherwise could not. IBMs Express Advantage program means that partners can bring to clients technology and services that those clients need and that can fit into their budgets, said Vince Taravella, director of channel sales for Vormittag Associates, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

"Theyre very cost-conscious," Taravella said of his SMB customers. "They want a midrange solution but think they cant afford it."

Offering affordable packaged solutions is at the heart of what IBM rolled out Oct. 24. The company unveiled three new servers powered by the latest dual-core chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices and three new printers that are low-cost while offering such features as wireless capabilities and controlled access to color printing, according to Todd Austin, manager of worldwide SMB marketing for IBMs Systems & Technology Group.

The System x3200 is a one-socket tower system. The x3250 is a 1U (1.75-inch) rack system. Both are powered by Intels Xeon chips. The x3655 is a 2U (3.5-inch) server running on AMDs Opteron processor that offers up to 64GB of memory and is aimed at such spaces as digital media and life sciences, Austin said.

The new printers are the Infoprint Express 1612, 1622 and 1634.

In addition, IBM unveiled a host of integrated solutions—a combination of hardware and software, preconfigured and pretested—including System p5 Solution Edition Express for Oracles JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Oracle E-Business Suite. The company also rolled out a System p Solution Edition Express for MySAP ERP and IBM System i IP Telephony Express.

The new Express Asset Recovery Solutions services address such issues as buying back or disposing of old equipment to ensure that hardware is clean of sensitive data before being recycled or disposed of. Hauling the hardware away is part of the offering.

Austin said the asset recovery program not only has financial implications but environmental ones as well, given the growing number of hardware pieces that are discarded every year.

In addition to the hardware and software packages, IBM is adding onto its Solutions Builder Express program aimed at helping partners—from software makers to systems integrators—work with SMB customers to address their technology needs. One new starting-point package enables partners to offer services to monitor the health and inventory of the hardware and send out alerts when needed.

Another allows partners to manage facets of their clients infrastructure remotely, from the installation of operating systems to server backup and restore services.

Looking Out for the Little Guy

New offerings in IBMs Express Advantage SMB program include:

* Three new servers, the Intel-based System x3200 and x3250 and the AMD-powered x3655

* New integrated solutions for Oracles JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Oracle E-Business Suite, MySAP and IP telephony

* More hardware management tools that partners can offer their clients