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IBM fills out its business services

Big Blue also lands an IT services deal with an insurance company and says nearly 200 life sciences applications now run on its systems.

IBM on Monday introduced two new services for midsize businesses, continuing its push to snag more revenue from companies with anywhere from 100 to 999 employees.

The news came amid two other announcements from IBM. The Armonk, N.Y.-based computing giant also said it landed an information technology services contract with an insurance company and boasted that nearly 200 key life sciences software applications now run on IBM server systems.

IBM's midsize business services unveiled Monday include delivery of a Web-based customer relationship management (CRM) application and a remote computer infrastructure management service. The CRM product is based on software from Onyx Software, and is being managed and delivered by IBM. Big Blue said the system can be up and running in 30 days or less. The cost includes a set-up fee of $100,000 and monthly charges of $150 per user.

The company bills the offering as part of its "on demand" initiative, under which it offers customers flexible costs based on usage.

"The flexibility comes with the number of users you're selecting," said Mary Garrett, vice president of distribution channels and midmarket for IBM Global Services. Garrett said the service is about 40 percent cheaper than either installing a CRM system in-house or using a traditional "hosted" approach, where the CRM software runs on remote computers but the client company retains the software license.

IBM's Onyx CRM product is available only in the United States.

The company's second offering for midsize businesses is called "IBM Services Anywhere Select." Using a secure Internet connection, the company remotely will manage Web servers at a customer's location so the customer can keep data stored on servers in-house. When problems are identified, IBM will attempt to fix them remotely and alert the client's on-site technicians to the problem.

Garrett said the service allows IT professionals in midsize companies to focus on business applications as opposed to more basic computer infrastructure. Also billed as an on-demand product, the Anywhere Select service includes a $5,000 one-time charge and a monthly fee of $200 per server. The servers do not have to be IBM products, Garrett said. This service is available in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The two offerings are part of an IBM thrust to increase its business with medium-size customers. Earlier this year, the company's software group said it plans to ratchet up its sales and support staff and to tweak its product line in an effort to woo medium-size businesses. IBM also has launched several dozen server computers for the same market.

In separate news, IBM's services wing on Monday announced that it signed a contract with insurance company Canada Life. Under the five-year deal, the company will deliver insurance software applications on demand, and Canada Life will pay for them according to the volume of insurance policies processed. Financial details of the contract were not disclosed.

IBM said services for Canada Life will be provided from the new "IBM Insurance Solutions Centre," which specializes in the design, development and management of software applications for insurance providers. The tech giant said the new facility should help insurance companies trim costs by 15 to 30 percent and improve customer service quality.

IBM's life sciences unit also trumpeted a victory Monday. The company said nearly 200 applications used by the life sciences industry have been ported to IBM server systems. In a press release, the company said Chemical Computing Group's suite of drug discovery software applications has been adapted for IBM pSeries server systems running AIX, IBM's UNIX operating system, and IBM xSeries server systems running the Linux operating system with IBM DB2 database software.

IBM said other life sciences applications ported and tested to run on its systems include ActivityBase, Blast, DiscoveryChannel and Gamess. The company says its life sciences division is its fastest-growing unit, with triple-digit growth last year.