IBM has expanded its Express line for small and medium businesses to include two hardware-software bundles to be carried by its partners.

The packages, one of which runs on a pSeries server, are more likely to be appreciated – and afforded – by mid-sized customers.

However,

Kevin Hooper, worldwide director of SMB sales and business development for the company, said they are a major step forward.

“”From a partner perspective it affords them an opportunity to utilize offerings from a major brand such as IBM in a way customers are going to be able to see value,”” he said in an interview.

The announcements include:

– Process Integration Solution Express, which is designed to help customers integrate their internal processes and applications.

It includes WebSphere Business Integration Server Express and an iSeries or xSeries server. The package is available to lease for as low as US$2,259 a month with IBM financing.

Hooper called the combo a “”lynchpin”” in delivering the promise of giving companies the ability to link disparate systems.

– Integrated Platform Express for Web Application Serving, aimed at customers who want a platform to develop and deploy dynamic Web sites. There are also options for adding DB2 Universal Database, and storage. Pricing of this package starts at $11,000 US without financing. The package will be released later this year.

“”These combined hardware and software solutions seem to be the kind of thing people in small and medium business want to purchase, said Hooper. “”It’s like [having] ‘one throat to choke,'””

“”Things have really modified in the last 18 months,”” he added. “”People used to be very focused in this space on best of breed. Now people are interested in making a platform decision.

“”To help partners sell the Express line IBM will also launch an advertising and marketing campaign, although Hopper didn’t have details of what’s planned for Canada.

While he hadn’t heard of the announcements, Ross Salvo, president of Montreal’s SIA Service Information Access, said the Express line has been well received, especially by small customers looking for lower-priced versions of IBM’s software.

The idea of ‘everything in a box’ is a good one, he said, especially for customers who don’t want mixed hardware enviroments.

“”In general, Express has grown [world-wide] over 350 per cent year over year”” since its inception two years ago,”” said Hooper. “”If we project that growth out through 2008, it becomes the predominate part of our portfolio for medium business.””

He didn’t have figures for Canada, but noted that IBM used to split the country into three regions. “”Things were going so well in the first half of the year we created a single executive that runs the whole small and medium business for Canada.””

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