IBM Sets Microsoft ISVs In Crosshairs

Over the next several months, IBM plans to re-skill its ISV sales team to ensure they can convince ISVs working with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft to switch the bulk of their SMB business to IBM, said one solution provider, who requested anonymity.

A major part of this strategy is to "recruit and enable from a sales and delivery perspective ISVs currently aligned with Microsoft," the solution provider said.



Solution providers said one reason that IBM Software is not gaining much traction against Microsoft in the SMB space is that it has released too many products too soon under the Express brand. Below is a list of offerings introduced by IBM within the past year:


>> WebSphere Portal Express
>> WebSphere Business Connection Express
>> WebSphere Application Server Express>> DB2 Universal Database Express
>> DB2 Content Manager Express
>> WebSphere Commerce Express
>> WebSphere MQ Express
>> WebSphere Business Integration Express for Item Synchronization

He said IBM likely will idle some salespeople and hire new ones to find the skills it is looking for to win over new ISV partners.

An IBM spokesman said IBM is putting more technical expertise into its sales force by shifting resources within the company,but not by hiring or firing. He said IBM hopes that by placing people who are technically savvy in positions to co-sell with ISVs, IBM will help partners compete more effectively against rivals selling solutions built on technology from Microsoft or BEA Systems.

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Scott Hebner, vice president of strategy and marketing for developer relations at IBM, said the company has, through regional sales teams, targeted ISVs in specific regions.

IBM employs about 25,000 salespeople that target vertical industries, 12,000 of which sell software only, Hebner said. Using these salespeople, IBM's goal is to get some of Microsoft's top ISVs to sign contracts to generate at least 60 percent of their SMB business with IBM over a specific period of time, he said.

IBM is particularly interested in attacking vertical markets and plans to launch more programs like ISV Advantage, introduced seven months ago, to promote IBM as the "partner of choice for ISVs," Hebner said.

A key goal is to get ISVs to build applications atop what IBM internally calls its Bluestack of middleware. The software stack, which could include the Linux operating system depending on ISV needs, can also include a database, message queuing and an application server.

"J.D. Edwards was the first ISV to bite, and they build atop DB2, Linux, WebSphere [and] MQSeries. IBM's strategy is to replicate that with all the apps companies and smaller ISVs," said one East Coast integration partner. "It's a move not just against Microsoft, but [also] Oracle."

IBM has identified ISVs as key to winning its SMB battle with Microsoft, but some solution providers say its effort is not going well. Part of the problem may be the flood of new products that IBM has launched under the Express brand. The rapidly expanding portfolio is confusing to partners, they said, adding that the sluggish economy also has hindered IBM's SMB efforts.