IBM Simplifies Tivoli For SMBs

The Tivoli Express software portfolio is a set of four products that provide levels of network monitoring, storage management, asset provisioning, and user access that are uncluttered by the vast feature set of modification and escalation tools that ship in full-blown Tivoli, said Al Zollar, general manager of Tivoli software. Zollar insists the slimmed-down products, one of which IBM discussed last week, are "real Tivoli."

"This is the same technology that is being used by the largest enterprises," said Zollar of the line. "We do not have the belief that you can dumb down products for the mid-market."

The products cost as little as $24 per user in the case of Identity Manager Express, or $195 per processor for Storage Manager Express. Solution providers can begin to show profit within three months after signing up as an IBM partner and completing a online sales and technical education session, said Mike Gerentine, worldwide director of channel strategy. "You can be profitable within a quarter," he said.

IBM will sell the offerings online and is using its existing PartnerWorld reseller program to incent solution providers to sell them. Becoming an IBM partner at the base Member Level is free of charge, said Gerentine.

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Recruiting VARs to sell the products will be spearheaded by IBM distributors Avnet, Agilysys, Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Synnex and Support Net, he said. In line with traditional PartnerWorld program practices, members at the higher tier Advanced and Premier levels will receive more sales leads than Member Level partners, he said.

Mike Todd, CTO of Northwind Consulting, an IBM Premier Partner in Issaquah, Wash., said handing most of the leads to IBM's enterprise partners who may be more interested in targeting lucrative sales of classic Tivoli is an odd approach, given the SMB ties Member Level partners have. Then again, there are only so many enterprise accounts compared to the sea of SMB, he said. So, Northwind aims to use to increase its annual $7 million sales revenue by 20 percent over the next 12 months, said Todd.

"With full blown Tivoli, you can keep two or three people busy for a year on an account, or with [these products], you can keep five or six people floating around on the shorter, mid-market engagements. I make the same amount of money either way," said Todd.

Because the line can be purchased direct online from IBM, SMB customers have the option to install and maintain the products without the assistance of a solution provider, according to IBM.

But the fact that customers can handle much of the management of Tivoli Express products should not be so worrisome to solution providers, said Michael Roy, president of Blue World Technology, Vancouver BC.

Yes, SMB customers with at least one IT administrator can deploy and manage the product, said Roy, who beta tested the suite and was a consultant on their development. But it's the ability for SMB themselves to take charge of much of the management of that makes it possible for enterprise solution providers like Blueworld to consider offering the products, said Roy. If SMBs were not able to handle some of the management chores, it would not be as profitable for IBM's upper tier partners to offer and support the lineup, said Roy.

"I think the a lot of the customers will be able to do a lot of the management on their own," said Roy. "But we mandate that they do it because it keeps the help desk cost down."

For all the IBM Express products, the appropriate seat count range is 100 to 1000 users. Availability is forthcoming. The prices of IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express and IBM Tivoli Monitoring Express will announced at a later date, according to IBM.