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IBM Bakes Up a Big Batch of 'Express' Offerings

I Knew You Were Coming...

November 3, 2003

Integrating disparate applications is about as difficult as baking a cake from scratch. If you have the base ingredients and can prepare them as directed, it's pretty easy to make a white cake into chocolate, or orange, or cherry, for that matter. It's also pretty easy to make cupcakes. When it comes to integration technologies, IBM's Express offerings are the cake mix, and the many modules are different flavors of the same recipe. Keeping with the analogy, IBM recently released 10 new recipes for cupcakes--vertical Express offerings that taste like on-demand computing for mid-sized businesses.

The new offerings, which came out on Halloween, are the latest set in a growing portfolio of Express products. IBM was challenged to take the best of its enterprise-class database offerings, reconfigure them, and offer integrated solutions at a palatable price for SMBs. The fruits of its labors resulted in IBM's first Express offerings that were made available in June.

Debra Thompson, IBM vice president of global marketing for SMBs, said the stand-alone products allowed IBM to deliver the right features and functions packaged specifically for SMBs. Now IBM is moving on to the second and third part of its SMB strategy, taking these stand-alone products down to the infrastructure level, and building on-demand solutions for specific industries.

"Medium-sized businesses have similar types of requirements as larger corporations, but they usually need a quicker return on their investment and their IT skills are lower." Thompson said. "They tend to land on an integrated solution approach to managing their business, rather than building a best-of-breed solution. Technology requirements and integration capabilities define what on-demand computing means to the mid-market."

Thompson said there are internal and external pressures that are forcing the mid-market to evolve. External pressures include being a cog in wheel of a supply chain management system with a larger corporation in a business-to-business (B2B) environment, as well as living up to customers e-commerce expectations in a business-to-consumer (B2C) setting. Meanwhile, small businesses must also contend with internal pressures, such as using multiple operating systems. This business scenario demands a different response than an off-the-shelf solution in order to make Intel and Windows play nice with UNIX and Linux.

"According to our studies 70 percent of medium-sized businesses are supporting multi-vendor systems consisting of Windows, UNIX, and Linux," Thompson said. "This is why our Express portfolio evolved from first delivering business-enabling products, and now operating systems and industry-specific solutions."

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