TORONTO — IBM knows that small and medium businesses have special needs best served by resellers, which is why executives say it won’t compete with its own channel as Web services emerge.

In November, IBM rolled out WebSphere Version 5, which

includes advanced Web services features and autonomic capabilities. On the mid-market front, it has rolled out WebSphere Application Server Express to address the needs of companies from 100 to 1,000 employees for an open infrastructure. According to IBM, WebSphere is the underlying platform for all of its on-demand software, integrating it with DB2, Tivoli and Lotus.

And while IBM’s business in the U.S. is “”more biased towards large customers,”” the market place in Canada is focused more on SMBs, Hershel Harris, director of IBM Toronto’s software laboratory and vice-president of WebSphere server development said at a briefing Tuesday.

“”SMBs will more often make a buy- versus-build decision,”” he said. “”They will more often engage with business partners, and they will more often try to seek a low cost, easy to use, simple solution that requires less internal skills than an organization that has a structure to allow it to support some complex software.””

Paul McErlean, vice-president of IBM software sales, said the world of Web services is now ready for SMB participation, considering software prices have dropped and the technology is much easier to use. “”Our middleware infrastructure and our Web services strategy is not just for the large accounts, it’s for whoever needs to participate in this kind of net-centric world.””

Morgan Smyth, president of IBM business partner the Braegen Group, said resellers are closer to the front lines in the SMB space, and can better relate to mid market customers than large corporations can. The Braegen Group caters to the mid-market by selling solutions in the areas of Web services, portals, wireless and infrastructure.

Smyth said key challenges facing the mid-market include cash constraints, limited IT departments, limited alliances to any hardware or software vendor, inflated expectations and limited budgets.

In a bid to help customers get more bang for their buck in the Web services realm, the Braegen Group offers SMBs a combination of IBM and non-IBM tools.

The strategy includes WebSphere, Portal and DB2 Express on the IBM front; along with rapid application tools like TogetherSoft; quick template builders like Tea; J2EE development orchestration solutions via Presto; and debuggers like JBuilder and PerformaSure.

Michelle Warren, an analyst with Toronto-based Evans Research Corp., said there’s a huge opportunity for resellers catering to the mid-market space. Warren says partners can build applications on top of IBM technology (including IBM WebSphere Application Server, Version 5, and its development environment, WebSphere Studio, Version 5, as well as DB2), and then offer value-added services including support and consulting.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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