IBM Looks to Partners to Reach Mid-Market

New software, training and support initiatives aim to help IBM's partners deliver its solutions to midsized companies.

SOMERS, N.Y.—IBM is working hard to make a name for itself in the midsized business market.

Not traditionally known as a friendly, cuddly-type company, IBM is depending on its partners to do the handholding with midsized companies used to working with smaller, regional software providers.

As part of its strategy to reach the mid-market, Big Blue announced on Tuesday new software, training and support initiatives to help business partners deliver IBM solutions to midsized companies.

The WebSphere Application Server-Express, the third leg of IBMs WebSphere-Express product line, was unveiled Tuesday. Due out in mid-December, the application server has been scaled down and componentized for the mid-market.

To entice the typically capital constrained, risk averse mid-market, IBM is pricing the Express app server starting at $25 per Internet user, or $2,000 per processor for an unlimited number of users, and $400 for additional developer copies.

Two additional products were announced last month, WebSphere Portal Server-Express and Business Connection-Express that round out the WebSphere-Express offering.

The three Express components combined provide an e-business infrastructure package for midsized companies looking to develop new functionalities and integrate existing technology—and a package that IBM partners can market to their mid-market companies.

Along with a push to attract more mid-market partners, the key message for IBM is that middleware is their business, and the SMB market is ready for integration.

"Look at the market in its totality, the large and medium businesses is the market were after and there are many tens of thousands of those," said Steve Mills, executive vice president of IBMs software group. "Our focus is where legacy and multiple processes [need to be integrated]."

And IBM is making business partners the primary route to the SMB market.