IBM and supply chain vendor Mapics have expanded their relationship to target small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with products designed specifically to support the iSeries.
Although a long-time IBM partner, the U.K.- and Georiga-based Mapics is just entering the iSeries market. While the alliance provides a new set of ERP, CRM and supply chain capabilities to iSeries customers, it's another notch in IBM's belt as it continues to push forward with its SMB offerings to undercut Microsoft's market share.
"This is a key strategic competitive play against Microsoft," said Kevin Hooper, director of IBM's SMB sales and business development. "But also, it's about giving people choice."
Indeed, the move also strengthens IBM's ties to the supply chain market and is one of many similar partnerships the company has forged in recent months to target this industry.
Earlier this month, IBM released its first product from its acquisition of Trigo Technologies Inc., which makes data synchronization software that is used to streamline supply chain operations.
In April, IBM expanded its partnership with International Business Systems (IBS), a Sweden-based supply chain management software provider, to integrate its products with IBM's WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Application Server Express, as well as with DB2 and Lotus Domino.
"We've been heavily targeting the SMB market," Hooper said. Part of that strategy, he said, is to partner with independent software vendors (ISVs) and resellers who can tap that market – many of whom are existing Microsoft partners. He added that a growing number of players, such as Mapics, are partnering with IBM because of the opportunity to simply sell more products without fear of having IBM has a competitor.
The ability to run open source software on the iSeries is an attempt by IBM to expand the platform's appeal and specifically target Microsoft users.
For months, IBM has been courting ISVs to create Linux or WebSphere ports to expand the potential pool of software for the iSeries. IBM announced in April the ISV Advantage initiative, a program designed to provide midmarket ISVs, including those serving the iSeries space, with technical and marketing support to help meet the specific needs of SMBs.
According to Hooper, Microsoft has huge market share, and ISVs find that attractive. But, after a while, many ISVs are increasingly uncomfortable with Microsoft's dominance.
"This announcement shows how credible our strategy is to target the SMB market," Hooper said. "We're on the right path. It gives us momentum as we invest billions [to court this industry.]"
As part of this agreement, the two companies will jointly market Mapics ERP for iSeries. The first product, Mapics CRM for iSeries, will integrate the CRM product from Frontstep, a previously acquired business software vendor, and will be made available later this year. The integration between the Mapics ERP application and these extensions will be built on IBM middleware, including IBM WebSphere Application Server and IBM DB2 Universal Database.
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