IBM Targets SMBs With Express Software, Blade Server Bundles

IBM on Tuesday plans to unveil IT business solutions for small and midsize companies that combine its WebSphere Express software with blade servers.

May 17, 2005

3 Min Read
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IBM on Tuesday plans to unveil IT business solutions for small and midsize companies that combine its WebSphere Express software with blade servers.

The IBM eServer BladeCenter Business Express offerings include preloaded, preconfigured WebSphere Express software on IBM BladeCenter servers, said Elaine Lennox, vice president of SMB for IBM servers and storage. IBM distributors will integrate the middleware and hardware for their VAR partners, which in turn can sell them to customers, she said.

The BladeCenter Business Express solutions are available immediately from distributor Avnet and will be available through Agilysys on June 1, Lennox said. IBM will make the solutions available through other distributors in the next quarter.

IBM also is enabling partners to customize the BladeCenter Business Express offerings through the Built On Express program. After certifying that their applications are compatible with IBM Express software, solution providers can add a Built On Express logo and have distributors integrate the software with existing BladeCenter Business Express solutions, Lennox said.

"Think of [the offerings] as a set of Lego building blocks," she said. "Partners can take these building blocks and customize them by adding incremental software or applications on top."IBM initially plans to offer four configurations, each of which addresses a specific IT infrastructure need for SMBs, said Juhi Jotwani, director of BladeCenter Alliances at IBM.

The first, Rapid Foundation for eBusiness, includes WebSphere Express Runtime--a combination of WebSphere Application Server Express and DB2 Express--preloaded on a blade to enable basic Web infrastructure for a small or midsize company, Jotwani said. Next is Process and Business Integration, which bundles WebSphere Business Integration Server Express and Websphere Express Runtime on a blade to provide supply chain integration for SMBs and their partners. Then, there are two collaboration solutions: Collaborative Portal Server, which combines WebSphere Portal Express and Express Runtime to enable SMBs to set up portals for information exchange and communication, and Collaborative Workplace, which includes IBM Workplace Services Express and Express Runtime to enhance portals with realtime communication such as instant messaging and document exchange. Down the road, IBM may add more configurations to those BladeCenter Business Express solutions, Jotwani said. IBM is using its HS20 two-way, Intel-based blades as the basis for the BladeCenter Business Express solutions, but customers that want to use AMD- or IBM Power-based blades can do so by working that out with IBM and distributors, she said.

Customers can expect to pay between $4,500 and $9,000 for each building-block blade server, and leasing costs per server start at $120 per month, Jotwani said.

Research firm IDC said IBM holds nearly a 50 percent market share in the blade server space, according to Lennox. Of that figure, about 30 percent is in the SMB sgment, she said.

"We're past the point of having the right blade hardware [for SMBs]," she said. "This takes it to the next step: How do you integrate the middleware layer as well?"Though IBM has focused on SMB solutions over the past several years, the IT giant still has a bit of a way to go in earning the trust of those companies.

According to a recent poll by technology market analysis firm Sage Research, 31 percent of IT decision makers in 110 companies with 1,000 employees or less said IBM doesn't support or understand the needs of their companies.

And in another recent poll by Sage, only 49 percent of 132 IT decision makers for SMBs said IBM understands and supports the needs of their businesses. The figure put IBM behind rivals Dell and Hewlett-Packard, which garnered a positive response from 78 percent and 70 percent of respondents, respectively.

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