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IBM stocks its business software lineup

Big Blue is set to introduce new versions of its business integration software designed to address the needs of 11 specific industries--from automotive to electronics.

IBM is trying to expand its reach in the so-called integration software market with new editions of products geared at specific industries.

Big Blue on Tuesday will introduce new versions of its Java-based WebSphere Business Integration software. The applications are designed to address the specific needs of 11 individual industries--from automotive to electronics. Integration software allows companies to link dissimilar business applications to share information.

IBM is targeting specific industries in reaction to increasing demand for integration software that can be implemented quickly, said Paraic Sweeney, IBM's vice president of WebSphere Business Integration.

The need for such software is growing because companies in all industries are trying to cut costs by streamlining their operations. Others are under pressure to comply with new regulatory demands. The health care industry, for instance, is facing new privacy and security requirements, Sweeney said.

The WebSphere Business Integration products provide companies with the software infrastructure to connect systems and "templates" for automating specific business processes. The templates, or pre-written code for automating business tasks, work in conjunction with server-based WebSphere Business Integration software. Overall, IBM is offering about 45 customizable application templates, Sweeney said.

The integration software also offers pre-built "process dashboards," or applications that collate analytical data. The historical data could, for example, provide statistics on how many broadband subscribers that a telecommunications provider signs on per day.

IBM currently is the market share leader in integration software, according to research firm Gartner Dataquest. The product is one of the fastest-growing sources of revenue in IBM's application portfolio.

But Big Blue is facing swelling competition as companies such as BEA Systems, Oracle and Microsoft start to take interest in the market. IBM also competes with application integration specialists such as Tibco Software and WebMethods.

Sweeney said IBM is in the process of training its consultants on the business process modeling tool included in the WebSphere Business Integration product line. The consultants will use the tool when working with customers to discuss how disparate systems need to be connected to automate processes.

The company also is upgrading its WebSphere Business Integrator Event Broker and Message Broker software, with features that make it easier for software developers to send messages between two applications.

IBM said it has signed on 32 business partners that have committed to using its software to build applications with the WebSphere integration software. Big Blue launched the partnership program in February in an effort to tap into the industry expertise of independent software providers and consultants.

Pricing for the new WebSphere Business Integration products starts at $225,000. The software is aimed at industries including energy and utilities, electronics manufacturing, financial, banking and automotive.