p>IBM Corp. has launched several new online technicalresources to help its independent software vendor partners develop and deploybusiness applications to vertical industries. These include banking, financialmanagement, insurance, retail, telecommunications, government, automotive, andhealth

care.

Called the IBM Virtual Innovation Center for Hardware, basedon grid and IBM Virtualization Engine technologies, it enables partners toaccess a ‘virtual’ pool of IBM hardware via the Internet. Products includeeServer and TotalStorage. Since it was created in 2003, the center has helpedpartners build over 1,700 new applications

The centre “lowers the bar significantly in the costs for anISV to get enabled to our products,” said Scott Hebner, vice-president ofpartner strategy for IBM’s software group.”In the old days, you’d have toget a machine, install it, get a room for it, maintain it, fix the bugs, payfor the power, all that stuff. Now we’re able to provide that stuff in a gridvirtual manner.”

The resources are offered as part of IBM’s PartnerWorldIndustry Networks initiative, which was announced in March. IBM signed up 2,000ISVs to the network in the first eight months.

The initiative is the third step in IBM’s ISV channelstrategy, which it launched five years ago when it left the applicationbusiness to focus on infrastructure hardware and services. IBM felt that itscustomers would be better served by application providers that could meet thespecific needs of their businesses.

The first phase, called the strategic alliance program,focused on the top 150 ISVs such as Peoplesoft and SAP. In 2003, IBM extendedthat program to 300 mid-market-focused ISVs. Partners receive financial supportfrom IBM for co-marketing to generate leads together and integration into itssales efforts.

The latest addition expands the program to 5,000 ISVs thatare more regional and industry specialized.

“We’re going to work more closely with ISVs, industryby industry, country by country, to provide them with co-marketing and supportto generate leads together and integration and leverage of our sales networkaround the world to close more business,” said Hebner.

As part of the announcement, IBM expanded its Virtual LoanerProgram to include porting, testing and validation support for AIX 5L Version5.3, SuSE Linux 9 on Power5 processor-based systems.

Adam Tumas, program manager for Virtual Innovation Centerfor Hardware, said partners can log on to the virtual private network with anactive PartnerWorld developer ID, create a reservation and get the systemprovisioned to them in as little as two hours. They can also save their workand go back to it at a later date.

“It’s a good way to give them these resources withouthaving them to buy, lease, install or maintain equipment to get these long-termwith starts and stops and short-term development test consolidationprojects,” said Tumas.

Victoria, B.C.-based PureEdge Solutions, which provides XMLelectronic forms to financial services and government, said the resources allowit to test and deploy software in days rather than weeks.

Paul Chan, vice-president of marketing at PureEdge, said theVirtual Loaner Program gives his company fast access capability when it portsnew versions of software.

“AIX comes out with a new version,” he said as anexample. “We need to confirm that the server-based components of our softwarework on AIX. It gives us a resource that we can quickly book and get to inadvance and get it for a certain time period where we can get that done.”

Resources also include 18 new “how-to” guides forbusiness partners, a new solution sizing toolkit designed to help usersidentify hardware requirements, and new education resources. These includeonline courses and tutorials on IBM technologies such as Linux on Power, DB2Universal Database and Lotus Domino.

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