IBM Puts Focus on Integration

IBM unveils offering that lets enterprises integrate disparate systems with WebSphere Commerce.

NEW YORK--IBM on Monday unveiled its integration strategy wrapped around its middleware line, including an out-of-the-box offering designed to enable midsize and large enterprises to quickly integrate their disparate existing back-end systems with the vendors WebSphere Commerce product.

IBM CrossWorlds Extender for WebSphere Commerce is the result of the Armonk, N.Y., companys purchase of integration software vendor CrossWorlds.

Integration--of business processes, such as CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning), and of technology--has become the key issue for enterprises, and thus the key issue for IBMs software push, Lou DAmbrosio, vice president of worldwide software sales and marketing for the IBM Software Group, told a gathering at the companys offices here.

"Integration becomes the enabler of true e-business," DAmbrosio said. "You cant have e-business without integration."

The key message IBM delivered at its integration event in New York Monday was that its four main middleware products play a role in helping IBM customers integrate their data, applications and business processes.

Ambuj Goyal, general manager of solutions and strategy for the IBM Software Group, said IBMs WebSphere application server and integrated environment provides the development environment for integration, while DB2 will serve as the repository for the integration efforts, and Tivoli will supply the systems, data and application management functions for users. Meanwhile, under the same common infrastructure as the others, Lotus will deliver workflow, document exchange and people interaction capabilities required in integration efforts, Goyal said.

IBM officials said that in a recent survey of customers, 35 percent of respondents said integration was most important to them, followed by e-business and CRM. Furthermore, they said, 40 percent of IT budgets is spent on integration.

And integration offerings--which are the middleware solutions that comprise the DB2, Tivoli, WebSphere and Lotus units--account for $11 billion of IBMs $13 billion software business, said DAmbrosia.

The company said it is pushing its integration strategy--which is based on open standards such as XML and Java 2 Enterprise Edition--around the integration specialties of the four software units: WebSphere for transaction management, DB2 for data management, Lotus for collaboration and Tivoloi for systems management.

"Some integration is driven by business; some integration is driven by technology," said Ambuj Goyal, general manager of solutions and strategy for the IBM Software Group.

IBM already has made announcements based on this strategy. Last week the company announced new tools based on its open-source Eclipse platform that support the entire middleware line and new WebSphere software designed to aid integration efforts in particular verticals, including retail and financial services.

Company officials said their strategy differs from others in that they offer software that enables companies to leverage whatever technology theyve already invested in. In contrast, Oracle Corp. encourages integration through purchasing of only Oracle products, while Sun Microsystems Inc. pushes the use of Solaris to ensure the best integration, DAmbrosio said.

Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for IBM Software Group, said "businesses have forever wanted to leverage these technologies to achieve the directives of integration," but the technology hadnt evolved to the point where integration was possible.

Now, "businesses understand the intent of the technology and its time to move to the how-to," specifically regarding Web services, Mills said, which is primarily used in integration initiatives. Mills said that for the next 12 to 24 months integration and Web services efforts will be "more of an internal issue." He said 2002 will be the year inside the firewall for integration efforts and 2004 will see companies beginning to take their efforts beyond the firewall in earnest.

Lou DAmbrosio, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for IBMs Software Group, said the design of how IBM will continue to grow its software business will be related to customer requirements, of which, integration is number one – based on internal surveys. He said IBM would continue to provide synergies between its four brands to facilitate integration.

Prasuna Dornadula, senior vice president and chief technology officer of CareTouch Inc., a Concord, Calif., healthcare systems provider and IBM customer, said he decided to go with IBM for integration and Web services systems because IBM offered a single-vendor solution that enabled his company to get up and running in 85 days with its solutions. CareTouch is currently implementing a Web services solution for durable medical equipment sales.

J.L. Jordon III, vice president of administration and operations at CareTouch, said the biggest issue in selecting a Web services and integration partner "was time to market, so in 85 days we got our system up and we were able to go from zero to $3.5 million in less than 12 months."

Meanwhile, Scott Hebner, IBMs director of marketing for WebSphere identified four key areas of need in terms of completing the integration solution for IBM: open standards-based workflow; advanced transactional connectivity; better utilization of computing resources in the network; and a continued flow of adapters necessary to integrate specific technologies. IBM is continuing to deliver in each of these areas and will not rule out making acquisitions if necessary, he said.

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