IBM takes first step down new ISV partnership path.

Big Blue launches new technical resources as part of its plan to strengthen its relationship with independent software vendor partners.

In a continued effort to strengthen its relationship with independent software vendors, IBM launched new technical resources designed to help ISVs slash both the time and cost linked with application enablement.

IBM software partners enrolled in Big Blue's PartnerWorld Industry Networks program can now access free on-demand architecture consultations, unlimited e-mail technical support for six months and 24/7 access to IBM's Virtual Innovation Center.

The release of these new technical support tools is one of the first steps in Big Blue's $125 million effort to rally its ISVs and tool developers around the iSeries, an investment aimed at curbing Microsoft's chokehold on the midrange server market.

According to Gordon Haff, an analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, this latest launch is a small step for Big Blue, but one indicative of IBM's desire to appeal to as many of its current and potential software partners as possible. Whether Big Blue can provide ISVs with a plan focused enough for their individual concerns remains to be seen.

"There's clearly a battle for the hearts and minds of ISVs in terms of how applications get deployed going forward," Haff said. "IBM's on-demand and grid vision is something very broad and brings together a lot of different capabilities, which means it can solve a lot of customers' problems. But because it's very broad it's tough [for customers] to wrap their arms around and really understand."

Under the new plan, IBM architects will provide ISVs with detailed architectural reviews of their applications that will help them integrate with Big Blue's software, hardware and emerging technologies, and provide customized recommendations for individual projects.

Software partners will have access to a Virtual Innovation Center, an online knowledge and enablement portal equipped with educational coursework, live mentoring, technical support, solution road maps, customer simulations and discussion forums.

IBM said giving ISVs online access to these tools will help them increase productivity when deploying new applications by offering them the chance to perform enablement activities at their convenience.

ISVs can also get answers to testing and integration questions by sending an e-mail to an IBM technical expert free of charge for six months -- a service Big Blue values at over $1,200 per ISV.

"Whenever [you are working] in the application environment, the key is to have ready answers for questions ISVs can pose," said Valerie Paul, an iSeries innovation center manager. "This speeds us the time for ISVs to get their products out to the market that much faster."

IBM announced this revamped ISV strategy in late February. Big Blue said it intends to provide these ISVs with an average of $50,000 in services.

According to Paul, a solid relationship between Big Blue and its software partners is vital because while IBM is no longer in the application development market. But the company still has a vested interest in helping companies develop software for customers.

"ISVs are absolutely critical to our success because they have application solutions that are selling to our customers in all industries across the board," Paul said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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