IBM Pushes iSeries, zSeries for Small and Medium-Sized Business

New Express bundles tailored for specific applications, industries, and market segments

Late last month, IBM Corp. announced a series of hardware, software, and services bundles tailored to small and medium business (SMB) customers.

Based on Big Blue’s Express line of products—which includes lightweight versions of WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Portal, and DB2 Universal Database—the bundles are designed to address the concerns of SMB customers. Express products will be delivered for all of IBM’s eServer platforms, including its zSeries mainframe line.

“We are going to provide to the marketplace what we’re calling Express-ready products—xSeries, iSeries, pSeries, and zSeries products that are SMB ready,” says Joanna Duguid, VP of SMB with IBM’s Systems Group.

IBM has thus far introduced Express versions of specific products—for example, WebSphere Express, WebSphere Portal Express, and DB2 Express—but Duguid says that Big Blue will also introduce Express bundles tailored for specific applications, industries, or market segments. “We’re going to build solutions on top of those [eServer] products for a specific marketplace, and those solutions will then be called Express,” she confirms.

For example, Big Blue’s WebSphere Commerce Express bundle is based on Big Blue’s xSeries Intel servers and is designed to help mid-market customers rapidly create and more easily manage e-commerce sites. Similarly, IBM announced eServer Integrated Platform Express for Employee Workplace, an xSeries-based bundle that exploits Linux and WebSphere Portal Express. IBM business partners can customize this offering to suit a variety of different vertical markets, including distribution, retail, and healthcare, Duguid says. Big Blue also introduced another Express bundle, WebSphere MQ Express.

Before they’re festooned with the Express brand, IBM’s product and services bundles are certified to meet minimum requirements for ease of installation, ease of use, performance, and ease of ownership, Duguid says.

The Express bundles Big Blue has thus far unveiled exploit xSeries Intel-based hardware, but Duguid says IBM will also introduce iSeries, pSeries. and zSeries bundles.

In at least one respect, this isn’t surprising. After all, Big Blue’s iSeries—nee, AS/400—minicomputers have seen their greatest success in the mid-market.

“The largest penetration from an iSeries perspective is the SMB customer, and iSeries from a Systems Group perspective has always attracted the mid-market,” Duguid explains.

She says IBM’s SMB push could result in even more wins for iSeries. “[iSeries] already deliver[s] integrated solutions. They were already the integrated platform, and they saw significant growth in the first quarter, and I do believe they’ll see additional growth as we deliver these more packaged solutions,” she notes. “We have customers who have migrated from HP to iSeries, we have brand new iSeries customers, all of them attracted by the integration of the platform. As we deliver Express [solutions for iSeries] for different industries, that integration story only becomes more compelling.”

Surprisingly, IBM believes that its zSeries product line will benefit from its SMB push as well. Duguid observes that “zSeries does have some installed base on the higher end of the medium-sized market” and specifically cites IBM’s z800 “baby” mainframe as a driver of potential uptake. “We are looking at how the baby zSeries maps to the [SMB] criteria and asking ourselves, ‘Can we have a baby zSeries Express-ready product that we can build solutions on for that customer set?'"

IBM currently offers a stripped-down version of its z/OS operating environment—dubbed z/OS.e—for the z800 mainframe. Big Blue’s "light" z/OS operating environment boasts the same hardware functionality that’s supported in the more robust z/OS V1R4 operating environment, but with restrictions on the OS’s ability to run certain traditional mainframe workloads.

In this regard, Duguid says, z/OS.e—with its emphasis on new workloads such as Java, J2EE and C++—gives Big Blue an additional option for courting SMB customers. “The smaller engine for z/OS with the engine that is in the box for Linux is the perfect box to go after that larger, medium-sized customer who’s looking to consolidate some of their Intel boxes and wants to run their employee workplace,” she concludes.

Big Blue’s SMB push is coordinated on several fronts, and also incorporates a services component, with contributions from IBM’s vaunted IBM Global Services (IGS) group. IGS last month unveiled Global Services Express Portfolio, an offering that provides a variety of different infrastructure support and managed services for SMBs. As part of Global Services Express Portfolio, IGS will offer hosting and fixed priced implementation services in tandem with several ISVs, including JD Edwards Co. and SAP AG.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.