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IBM courts smaller developers

As part of its push into small and medium-size markets, IBM introduces tools and programs to gain the loyalty of partners and software developers.

IBM will launch on Thursday several initiatives aimed at gaining the allegiance of software developers who can help raise IBM's profile with small and medium-size businesses.

At its four-day DeveloperWorks Live 2003 conference in New Orleans, Big Blue will unveil software tools and programs designed to promote the adoption of IBM's newest software, particularly by partners and commercial software developers.

The company is also introducing an "enterprise modernization" consulting service and a set of tools designed to help companies to either retire or to find new uses for old applications that run on mainframes or minicomputers.

IBM's partner-oriented efforts are part of its plan to extend its presence among medium-size businesses with simplified product packaging under the Express brand and a $500 million investment aimed at signing on partners that use IBM's infrastructure software.

IBM continues to pursue large business accounts through its direct sales force but needs to forge more partner relationships with third-party consultants that build custom applications for small and medium-size businesses, according to IBM executives.

To simplify access to IBM software, the company has created Integrated Platform Express, a bundle of IBM software and servers. By purchasing the bundle, which includes WebSphere Express and DB2 Express on Intel-based servers running Linux, partners can more quickly deploy applications to small and medium-size businesses, IBM said.

IBM will also introduce a program to incite partners to use its autonomic computing software, which is designed to reduce the amount of manual labor needed to manage computers. In conjunction with a recently introduced blueprint for autonomic computing, IBM wants to get independent software providers to use its autonomic software within their applications.

An example of such software is the Autonomic Monitoring engine, which is currently used in IBM's Tivoli storage management software and can be embedded within third-party applications. The monitoring engine can be used to detect and react to potential system outages.

For corporate developers, IBM has updated its WebSphere Studio development tools to help companies use long-standing applications in new-business processes.

Some businesses spend 70 percent to 80 percent of their technology budgets on maintaining so-called legacy systems that have been functioning for decades but are difficult to improve because of poor documentation, according to IBM executives.

WebSphere Studio Enterprise Developer version 5 and the WebSphere Host Access Transformation Server are designed to make it simpler for programmers to connect mainframe and minicomputer applications to other corporate applications using Internet protocols. Programmers can use Java and Web services to pull information and processes from applications written in Cobol and PL/1 and to create new graphical screens.

In conjunction with the tools, IBM Global Services is introducing consulting services to help companies assess how they can consolidate several old applications or reuse existing ones in new business processes. IBM is also offering to make the changes to old applications for customers.