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.
: IBM Looks to Partners to Reach Mid-Market”>
Three years ago Big Blue announced it would stop developing software for industry vertical applications and focus instead on partnerships with ISVs [independent service providers] to sell its infrastructure products coupled with software.
While it has more than 90 current alliances, IBMs pumping its considerable marketing might—and dollars—into signing more partners that have an in with SMB customers.
To this extent, Big Blue is doing what it can to make itself more attractive to the mid-market. The company announced a new managed service for midsized companies—hosted by VeriSign and based on IBM Tivoli Access Manager—that provides security for portals, extranets and other business applications.
Big Blue also announced reduced rates and a lower entry point for financing its middleware. Available through IBM authorized business partners and internal sales, a new minimum transaction amount has been set at $25,000.
At the same time, a long-term partner of IBMs, Ariba Inc. announced new software to help midsized companies manage their spend.
Aribas Spend Management Advantage software is a series of five packaged ESM solutions that address business, process, technology, supplier and operations issues.
The SMA packages include Aribas Spend Management applications, along with IBMs eServer, WebSphere and DB2 products—as well as its consulting services.
The Spend Management modules include Strategic Advantage, Buying Advantage, Sourcing Advantage, Performance Advantage and Infrastructure Advantage.
Ariba and IBM will work with customers to help define their spend management goals and develop a strategy that aligns those initiatives. The companies will jointly sell Aribas Spend Management Advantage software.
Despite a growing network of partners and more cash pumped into development, IBM faces some stiff competition. Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., has long had its hooks in that market and has acquired two ERP [enterprise resource planning] software companies, Great Plains and Navision, with solid SMB customer bases.
At the same time, Microsoft has strong ties with the SMB market at the desktop level.
Likewise, Oracle Corp., which also offers infrastructure software and e-business applications, is making a push into the SMB market and has partnered with NetLedger Inc. to develop software that reaches across the sector.