IBM Expands Integration Offerings

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IBM on Tuesday plans to expand the reach of its integration software offerings with a plethora of new solutions tailored for individual vertical industries such as financial services, insurance, automotive and retail. In addition, Big Blue will be rolling out new versions of its event broker and message broker middleware.

In all, the WebSphere Business Integration (WBI) family will now include 11 different solutions aimed at tying together applications and business processes and automating the flow of information across particular industry domains, according to Paraic Sweeney, vice president of marketing for WebSphere Business Integration. Other target industries include manufacturing, banking, chemical and petroleum, electronics, energy and utilities, health care, pharmaceutical and telecommunications.

"We have really seen the need to provide that industry-specific lens," says Sweeney. "And when you do, you see a host of requirements for specific applications connectivity that go way beyond the 20 main packaged apps. We are talking about many different niche systems that you find across these verticals."

For example, in manufacturing, an "order fulfillment" process ordinarily moves across a number of applications and B2B protocols, such as RosettaNet, that are unique to that industry and its partners. IBM's manufacturing solution allows a partner to model a particular "order fulfillment" business process across systems, with WBI enabling the underlying application and protocol connectivity, according to Sweeney. QAD, an IBM partner that sells manufacturing-specific ERP software to mid-market firms, is one partner using WBI to incorporate its software into the overall manufacturing processes of its customers.

Sweeney points to a number of factors are driving the need to offer vertical solutions for integration, most notably regulatory mandates in the health care and financial services industries as well as the trend among the largest companies in a supply chain, such as Wal-Mart, to require certain levels of connectivity among its partners. In Wal-Mart's case, the retailing behemoth is mandating its suppliers (of all tiers) to move off of legacy EDI networks to the emerging AS2 standard, which enables cheaper EDI over the Internet.

Such integration needs will prompt a starring role for solution providers, particularly in the vertical implementations where they have domain expertise, says Sweeney. Indicative of that, IBM on Tuesday is also planning to announce 32 new members to its WebSphere Business Integration Accelerators for Business Partners, a program launched in February to help ISVs, solution providers and systems integrators to better integrate and maintain their applications at customer sites.

The Accelerators program gives partners assistance with building process models that incorporate their application or solution into the flow of their customers' other systems, architectural guidance for integrating their solution, testing of their results, and go-to-market assistance from IBM.

WebSphere Business Integration industry solutions are priced starting at $225,000. The WebSphere Business Integration Event Broker version 5.0 has a starting list price $37,000, and the WebSphere Business Integration Message Broker is priced starting at $98,000.

The new event and message brokers are products formerly branded under the MQ moniker. Beyond the name change, IBM has expanded tools support for the two brokers, incorporating the tools into Eclipse framework to provider developers with a more consistent user experience, and access to such things as common object repositories and artifacts.

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