IBM Bolsters Blueprint Portfolio To Drive Middleware Adoption

The company this week is offering a spate of new solution blueprints, or Solution Starting Points, to help VARs and integrators build custom solutions for specific industries. The blueprints target three main technology areas: business integration, business intelligence and collaboration/content management. The Starting Points, created with business partners, build on IBM's WebSphere, Lotus Domino and Tivoli brands.

The goal is to make it easier for these partners to build solutions that are readily repeatable in different engagements. The blueprints are available at IBM's PartnerWorld Web site.

In addition, IBM executives Wednesday said some 60 ISVs have now signed on to the company's Application Enablement Program (AEP). IBM launched the program in late 2002 with inaugural partners including Onyx , Employease, Intacct, and HRSmart. All of these On Demand applications are hosted by IBM Global Services (IGS), a name that always raises eyebrows in the channel.

IBM rivals always maintain the company's software and hardware efforts are largely driven by IBM's need to sell pricey services via its huge integration arm.

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Mark Hanny, vice president of Worldwide ISV Alliances at IBM, said there is more than enough business to go around. "IGS probably accounts for 5 percent to 7 percent of all the opportunities," Hanny told CRN in an interview in Somers, N.Y. on Wednesday.

Some IBM-centric partners say IGS is actually a boon, not a threat to them. "We actually recommend people host with IGS," said Frank Vafier, CEO of Prolifics, a New York City-based IBM e-business partner.

For more than two years, IBM Software had been on a tear to capture midsize businesses and wrest share from Microsoft.

IBM has been pitching its middleware stack including Lotus Domino, WebSPhere and Tivoli brands as a secure, cost-efficient basis for third-party applications. In this quest, it has faced off with Microsoft's equally aggressive SMB thrust.

Hanny maintains that the Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) push, thus far, has been underwhelming. He and other IBM execs maintain that Microsoft's decision to buy Great Plains and Navision and potentially other application developers has hurt the company's effort to pitch the Microsoft stack as ISV-friendly turf.

"MBS hasn't gone anywhere," Hanny said, reaffirming IBM's five-year-old decision to leave applications to third parties.

Some observers say that the line between middleware plus blueprints and applications themselves is getting thin.