IBM expands ISV initiatives to SMBs

Escalating its war with Microsoft to the SMB (small and midsize business markets), IBM on Tuesday announced it would expand its Independent Software Vendor (ISV) Advantage program to include SMBs in a number of vertical industries, including retail, financial services and manufacturing.

Company officials claim they are making headway against Microsoft in these areas with a little more than 70 ISVs joining the program over the past four or five months, including some Microsoft developers that switched over to use IBM technology as their primary environments.

"A lot of ISVs are telling us that over the next one to two years they have to make a long-term decision about their primary partner for the future, and we are bent on ensuring that we [IBM] will be that partner," said Scott Hebner, vice president in charge of strategy and marketing for IBM Developer Relations. "We think we are well positioned to help ISVs go to market, particularly vertical markets, given our heritage and strategies in business integration infrastructure," Hebner said.

One of the more recent additions to the program is Logo Business Solutions (LBS), Turkey's largest independent software group as well as one of the leading Microsoft distributors in that country. Company officials said they will be moving its Unity multi-currency system from a Microsoft-Oracle platform to Linux-based versions of IBM WebSphere Express and DB2 Express.

"We remain committed to offering open platforms that enable developers to build solutions rapidly and at a low cost," with said Erdem Gulger, director of LBS. "Migrating our applications to IBM's middleware helps us ensure cross platform integration and compatibility," he said.

Another recent addition to IBM's ISV roster is Friedman Corp., which has picked WebSphere on which to deploy its Frontier iProduct solution aimed at the manufacturing, sales, and distribution industries.

"We think a major IT challenge for small and midsize business is to have systems that can scale and are reliable enough to cope with large transaction volumes," said Craig Yamauchi, president of Friedman Corp. "IBM's WebSphere server has a lot of those capabilities," he said.

Many SMB shops are in the process of first, transforming their business operations and then integrating them, Hebner said. But the methods used by a company involved in automotives, for instance, to do that are very different from those a bank might use.

"It is at that intersection where ISVs becoming more skilled and the solutions more oriented toward a specific industry, along with open infrastructure can help them," Hebner said.

The total market opportunity for information technology in the SMB market is US$300 billion, according to AMI Partners.

In a related announcement IBM officials said Onyx -- a developer specializing in CRM-based solutions that allow users to share important data among employees, customers, and partners through Web services-based portals -- now supports IBM's WebSphere Portal.

For more information about IBM's business partner program, developers can go to www.ibm.com/partnerworld.

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