Inside IBMs Middleware Kingdom

On its 10th anniversary, IBM Software Group is taking its winning middleware formula to small business.

In the software industry, Microsoft Corp. may own the desktop, but IBM owns just about everything else. The Armonk, N.Y., company, which hatched its Software Group 10 years ago, has grown to become the second-largest software provider in the world, behind Microsoft. The reason, according to company executives and industry observers, is due almost exclusively to the groups intense focus on middleware development. Indeed, through the success of its brands—DB2, Tivoli, WebSphere, Lotus and Rational—IBM has been able to eschew the applications business and not only focus on but also dominate the middleware space.

As Ambuj Goyal, general manager of the companys Lotus Software division puts it, IBMs strategy is "middleware everywhere."

Driving this strategy are the companys five brands, which are designed and positioned to allow customers to build, manage and run IBM software. Rational and WebSphere tools, for example, allow customers to build applications. Those applications can be run in the WebSphere, DB2 or Lotus environments and managed with Tivoli.

The strategy has worked well in the enterprise.

"Unlike the other players, IBM has an integrated tool set and strategy for building software for everything from a handheld to a mainframe, and all their tools will interoperate," said Todd Williams, vice president of technology at Genuitec LLC, in Dallas. "No other single player has such breadth or vision, with the possible exception of Microsoft. In this economy, there is no stronger message."

It is IBMs newest software brand, Rational, that is making the most news of late. This week marks the arrival of the first new release from the group since IBM completed its acquisition of Rational Software Corp. in February. Supporting the on-demand concept of effective resource utilization, Rational will introduce a new Architected Rapid Application Development solution for increasing the productivity of IT organizations by enabling them to leverage development resources.

The announcement includes new offerings that expand what Rational calls the Extended Development Experience enhancements to IBM Rational Unified Process. As a result, IBM will be able to deliver a more configurable process to a broader audience and upgrades to all tools in Rationals suite of products.