For the worlds largest computing company, IBM is working hard to please the smallest customers.
The small-and-midsize-business segment has been a key strategy for IBM, and it will be “a key part of our growth,” said Janet Perna, general manager of data management solutions at IBMs Software Group, during an interview here last week with eWEEK editors.
IBM has already delivered its DB2 Express product expressly for the SMB market, Perna said. And the company is working on a product called DB2 Content Manager Express, which will be a “skinnied-down” version of DB2 Content Manager, also aimed at the SMB market, she said.
In addition, IBM is seeing increasing interest in Linux as a database platform and expects that portion of the business to grow, Perna said. In its last fiscal quarter (the second quarter of this year) DB2 revenue grew 16 percent, and DB2 distributed revenue grew 23 percent over the same period last year.
To promote development of DB2 applications, IBM is “doing deep integration with IBMs development tools”—both the companys WebSphere Studio set of tools as well as the tool set the company acquired when it bought Rational Software Corp., Perna said.
A strategy for the SMB market would not be complete without support for Microsoft Corp.s tools, which also play in that environment. To that end, IBM is working on integration between Microsofts Visual Studio integrated development environment and DB2, Perna said.
Last week at the VSLive New York conference, Bob Picciano, IBM director of database technology, said IBM “wanted to extend Visual Studio .Net to be a premier application development environment for DB2.”
Leon Katsnelson, senior product manager for DB2 at IBM, who demonstrated the use of Visual Studio in a DB2 environment, told conference attendees that “the most important constituent of the DB2 family is you, the Visual Studio .Net developer.”
Customers, partners and other observers are happy IBM is paying so much attention to the little guy.
Blair Hankins, chief technology officer at Ascendant Technology Inc., in Austin, Texas, said the IBM SMB strategy has already paid off for his company, which uses the WebSphere Portal Express solution, and has saved time and money in installations. One particular installation “has served as a driver for significant additional business” for Ascendant, Hankins said.
David Moskowitz, president of Productivity Solutions Inc., of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., said he thinks IBMs SMB initiative will benefit partners. “Given that they are protecting channel customers, we believe it will be helpful,” Moskowitz said.
“I think they can be successful in specific sectors of the SMB market,” said Stephen OGrady, an analyst with RedMonk LLC, a market research company in Hollis, N.H. “DB2 Express, for example, represents a very viable alternative as an embedded database for ISVs in need of that type of solution.
“However, IBM faces some critical questions around its SMB messaging,” OGrady said. “Tivoli, for example, is likely to have a very different definition of what an SMB customer is than, say, [IBMs] Lotus [Software division]. As IBM goes to market with SMB customers, theyll be battling not only the perception that they are just for big business, but their own messaging to customers must be clear and targeted as well.”