IBM Express-es Its Candid Desire For SMEs

Event Summary

The market has recently witnessed a number of high-profile announcements of stalwart vendors' aspirations to capture the lower-end of the enterprise applications space as their response to ever more audible siren song of the opportunity (see Software Giants Make Courting A Small Guy Their 'Business One' Priority).

To that end, even the vendor that is not an application provider per se but that could hardly be omitted in any serious enterprise applications market analysis, IBM Corporation (NYSE: IBM), the largest IT company in the world, recently launched a portfolio of offerings and programs designed and priced specifically for medium-sized business customers. The portfolio will consist of new hardware, software, professional services, solutions and financing all designed to meet specific criteria for medium-sized businesses with respect to function, ease of use and management, and price -- a set of brand attributes delivered under the brand name Express.

The offerings within the new IBM Express portfolio are aiming at assisting medium-sized businesses which IBM defines as companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees that often have fewer IT skills and tighter budgets than larger enterprises -- in their transformation to "on demand" businesses (i.e. IBM's vision for utility or usage-based enterprise computing within a dynamic distributed IT infrastructure referred to as "grid computing") using IBM's technology based on open standards such as Java and Web Services.

This is Part One of a three-part note.

Part Two will cover the Market Impact.

Part Three will discuss the Challenges and make User Recommendations.

What Medium-Sized Businesses Want

Many medium-sized businesses are reportedly looking to improve the efficiency of their core business processes. While many of them think information technology (IT) could help them achieve their business objectives, yet the majority of them also believe that business solutions are still designed, developed, and priced for large companies. IBM claims that the IT industry tends to design offerings for very large businesses or very small businesses; thus, IBM's Express portfolio would supposedly be the first one to take the needs of medium-sized companies into account to enable these companies to operate in a more responsive, flexible and cost effective manner. As an example, the new WebSphere Commerce - Express is designed to enable medium-sized companies to create and manage e-commerce sites in fewer steps than the comparable offering from Microsoft, and at a lower price point. Also, the new portal solution combines the power of an eServer xSeries system with the scalability of WebSphere Portal Express, to make it easier for employees to access, customize and manage, in one place, all the business critical knowledge and content-management tools they need to operate efficiently in a busy office environment. IBM has already launched several Express middleware software products including WebSphere Application Server Express, DB2 Express, and WebSphere Portal Express. DB2 Express for example is priced at $499 for a base server package, with an additional licensing cost of $99 per user, and installs in 15 minutes.

Thousands of IBM Business Partners are already working to deliver Express-based solutions, such as Texas-based Ascendant Technology, which built a solution for the Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads, VA using IBM WebSphere Portal Express, WebSphere Application Server Express and Lotus SameTime to provide HIPAA-compliant automated patient registration, advanced workflow and collaboration capabilities. Offerings within the new Express portfolio are developed with input from IBM customers and Business Partners.

In order to carry the Express name, the product and service programs and offerings must go through a strict certification process — where they must meet stringent benchmarks for providing best in class ease of use, simple installation and overall ease of ownership. With the new Express portfolio IBM will further enable its network of 90,000 Business Partners including local value added resellers (VARs), independent software vendors (ISVs), systems integrators and consultants to deliver complete solutions to medium-sized businesses. Further, all Express offerings are Business Partner enabled, meaning that partners either can sell or recommend IBM Express offerings to their customers and receive lead pass fees or other forms of compensation.

Express Products for Medium-Sized Businesses

As part of the announcement IBM is launching the following new Express offerings that are designed and priced specifically for medium-sized businesses:

  • WebSphere Express Portfolio — IBM adds two new software products to its growing portfolio of Express software solutions. The first, WebSphere Commerce Express, as mentioned earlier, is a new software offering designed to facilitate medium-sized businesses in creating and managing e-commerce site. WebSphere MQ - Express on its hand should make it easy to connect a variety of different applications together so businesses can efficiently share critical data across their IT infrastructure. IBM claims a medium-size business can install WebSphere MQ - Express in just five clicks and can be up and running in as little as 10 minutes

  • IBM eServer Integrated Platform Express for Employee Workplace — As the employee productivity is a key focus for medium-sized companies, the IBM eServer Integrated Platform Express for Employee Workplace might be a solution for companies with 100 to 250 employees, as it offers express configurations that can be tailored by IBM Business Partners to meet requirements of a variety of important industries such as retail, distribution, health care and banking. This Linux-based solution combines the power of an IBM eServer xSeries 255 system with the scalability and transactional capability of IBM WebSphere Portal Express. Starting price for the employee workplace solution is $35,000 for 20 users. It is IBM's intent to provide support for WebSphere Portal Express for Linux on the POWER architecture, and to deliver an employee workplace solution on both eServer iSeries and eServer pSeries platforms.

  • Financing For IBM Express Solutions — It includes a low rate financing solution that should make it more affordable for medium-sized businesses to install and upgrade any Express solution sooner for a more immediate return on their IT investment. The low rate financing solution offers below-market rates to qualified customers giving them an affordable and convenient way to lease their IT solutions with a single contract and periodic invoice. In addition to the low rate financing solution, Financing for IBM Express Solutions also includes the ValuePlan Lease, which provides eligible medium businesses with a short, simple and fast lease contract, giving them streamlined financing on the Express solutions they need. IBM financing solutions are available through IBM representatives or IBM authorized Business Partners.

  • IBM Personal Computing Division - Express Program — A new program offering ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops from IBM's Personal Computing Division (PCD) should offer quick new ways for medium-sized businesses to buy, install, and manage their computer systems. Specific models in the Express program provide these customers with many of the pricing and configuration advantages traditionally offered to larger enterprise customers. The PCD Express product portfolio combines tailored configurations of ThinkCentre desktops, ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkVision monitors with aggressive prices. PC products in the IBM program reportedly offer state-of-the-art ThinkVantage Technologies in wireless, security, and manageability, as well as extended battery life and enhanced processing.

  • IBM Global Services - Express Solutions for Medium Business — IBM will also deliver a range of services including packaged implementation, infrastructure support and managed services designed specifically for medium-sized businesses as part of IBM Global Services (IGS) Express Portfolio. Both hosting and fixed-priced implementation services will be offered with a range of mid-market ISV partners, including J.D. Edwards, SAP and other key IBM alliance partners. The latest example of an IBM Express Services offering is the IBM Wholesale Distribution Solution for SAP. Available in the US, this fixed-price solution enables medium-sized business to more efficiently participate in their customers supply chains or manage their own. As a fixed-price Express solution, it starts at $300,000 and can be deployed in as few as 10 weeks. The IBM Global Services Express portfolio includes two offerings which should allow medium-sized businesses to have IBM manage their e-business infrastructure. IBM Managed Services - Services Anywhere-Select and IBM Managed Hosting - Infrastructure Solutions with Server Management - Entry are available directly from IBM or through IBM Business Partners. These Express services should enable a customer to have IBM manage their servers either at the customer location or in an IBM data center.

This concludes Part One of a three-part note.

Part Two will cover the Market Impact.

Part Three will discuss the Challenges and make User Recommendations.

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