IBM recently unveiled a new iSeries version optimized for mySAP ERP, SAP's enterprise resource planning suite. The edition will be available in two-way and four-way versions, providing small and midsized businesses with growth options, according to IBM officials. The release is primarily targeted at midsized businesses that want to deploy mySAP quickly.
According to Jim Herring, director of product management and business operations for the iSeries, this offering's advantage is providing a tight package to lower the cost and time of deployment. "Studies have shown deployment of SAP can take up to 18 months, and that is a barrier to entry," Herring said.
Though there is not much difference in hardware from traditional iSeries, IBM and SAP have created an off-the-shelf product, optimized and loaded. It takes the hassle out of installation and configuration, according to Charles King, principal analyst with Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research.
The SAP way
What typically happens when an SMB implements an ERP package from a mega-vendor? The SMB will be forced to change business procedures, as ERP systems often come with long, tedious implementations and rigid feature sets. Simplifying the technical side of an SAP implementation is necessary because business process management challenges can dwarf IT's task.
"It's a diverse, broad product," said Doreen Anderson, SAP Basis manager at West Chicago-based Ball Horticultural Co. Anderson, an SAP iSeries user since 1997. Anderson leases hardware at three-year intervals and plans to jump to the optimized machines for 2006.
"If you bite off small pieces it becomes manageable," said Anderson. "We started with the basics, and over the last seven years we've embellished."
"It's as much of a transition for business processes as it is for IT. The crux of this offering is to simplify IT integration so that people can focus on the major impact an implementation will have on processes," Herring said.
While the benefit of this package may seem obvious to SMBs considering mySAP implementations, this type of marketing cooperation might lead some wonder what is in if for the companies? Is this is a partnership of convenience -- a strategy for IBM and SAP to launch a salvo against a common enemy, Oracle? According to all involved, that is not the case.
"SAP and the iSeries have had a history of focusing on the midmarket, while Oracle has come into this area more recently," said King, explaining why SAP and iSeries make a good match. "But IBM works with everyone on the block."
"SAP doesn't care about hardware," Anderson said. "You can run it on anything. But right now they might help each other with Oracle's JDE/PeopleSoft Pacman routine."
"With ISV [independent software vendor] relationships, you can't favor one over another," Herring said. "We have a lot of customers with Oracle, former JDE users, and we can't neglect them." But Herring did admit that this is a new level of marketing cooperation between the corporations.
According to King, the real motivation may be investment to promote iSeries relevancy. "IBM has been focusing on the iSeries this year. The company has been talking about investing in the ISVs for a while and this is indicative," King said. "This customer base is loyal, but you need to be able to attract new customers."
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