IBM Goes After the Midmarket With SOA Offerings

IBM has kicked off a redoubled effort to drive its services-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative down into the midmarket, announcing at its PartnerWorld conference a raft of programs, tools and software

March 13, 2006

4 Min Read
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IBM on Monday kicked off a redoubled effort to drive its services-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative down into the midmarket, announcing at its PartnerWorld conference a raft of programs, tools and software directed at business partners.

Chief among the new offerings is an SOA Specialty within its PartnerWorld Industry Networks that will provide technical enablement and a skills-building road map for partners. The program makes available a number of benefits for those partners who reach milestones, including access to SOA Connection Events, which allows them to meet with SOA sales specialists, get discounted print advertising and help with closing SOA-related deals.

The new program has three different levels. The entry level requires partners to train at least one person in their organization on SOA-related products and does not require partners to register. The second level, called the SOA Specialty, gives partners access to IBM SOA experts to help close deals. The third level is “by invitation only” and includes co-funding for marketing partners as well as access to IBM executives. However, to qualify for the third level, partners must agree to meet certain revenue levels, and their products must meet IBM's compatibility criteria.

“The first question partners ask is how they get started with SOA. With [the entry-level program], we are announcing a zero barrier to entry for SOA,” says Sandy Carter, vice president of channels, SOA and Websphere for IBM's Software Group. “We'll give partners access to tools, software downloads like Websphere Community Edition, as well as education, all without registering.”

Some observers believe IBM has some work ahead to do before it can make the sort of inroads among partners dealing with smaller companies that it has with partners dealing with larger corporate accounts.“Enterprise clients that already have the IT infrastructure in place to create SOA-styled applications and deploy them widely know about the value proposition,” says Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, in Hayward, Calif. “But where the costs and benefits of [SOAs] are less understood, never mind proven, is in the midmarket. It will take IBM some time to get the message across there.”

Partners who become members of SOA Specialty will be included in the company's SOA Business Central, which is a federated catalog listing IBM and SOA software created by all of its business partners. The catalog is expected to contain more than 3,000 SOA industry-specific assets or services, combinations of software code and best practices.

SOA Business Central will include the upcoming WebSphere Registry and Repository, which details how partners can read and publish services and change management on those services, Carter says.

IBM also rolled out four Solution Builder Express (SBE) offerings for SOA, designed to allow partners to create repeatable solutions that address specific business problems.

The Rapid Foundation for Application Infrastructure SBE helps users better realize operational efficiency and reduce administrative costs; the Sync Applications and Data for SBE is based on WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus and WebSphere Integration Developer; the Collaborative Workplace SBE helps improve employee access to information; and the Process Integration helps small business do a better job with customer retention.Analysts think IBM is moving in the right direction by making many of the products and enablement services low cost or free. They believe many partners curious about making investments in SOA-related products will be more apt to at least make some exploratory attempts.

“People wanting to just dip their toes in the water can get a half-dozen assessment and enablement tools, along with some education,” King says. “IBM seems to really want to make it easy if you are at all interested.”

Trying to build momentum for its upcoming DB2 Viper database, expected this summer, the company also announced the DB2 Viper early partner community. The company will supply partners who join the community with education and product-launch participation.

“We think Viper is critical to SOA because of the XML portion of the database,” Carter says. “With this announcement, partners can sign up for early enablement and have the chance to be involved at the launch.”

Finally, IBM unveiled an SOA Value Assessment Tool that lets business partners better work with customers to identify business problems that can be solved in an SOA. It can also make recommendations about the appropriate WebSphere-based software that can solve the problem and give users a time frame on when they can expect an ROI on a specific project.0

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