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IBM ramps up services initiative

The computing giant is bolstering its on-demand initiative with a host of management consulting services tailored to specific industries.

NEW ORLEANS--IBM is building up management consulting services tailored to specific industries to bolster a key part of its "on-demand" computing initiative.

The services, from IBM's Global Services Consulting division, are designed to make companies more productive, said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager of the e-business on-demand initiative, at IBM's developer conference in New Orleans on Thursday.

The on-demand plan will let companies purchase computing power, storage or applications on an as-needed basis and receive monthly statements.

IBM, so far, has completed packages for about half of the seventeen industries it's targeting, which include retail and banking.

"We are educating the field sales force and talking to the industry experts and getting ready for customer engagements," Wladawsky-Berger said. "We really want to link all this (on-demand work) to business value."

With its e-business on-demand plan, introduced by IBM CEO Sam Palmisano in October of last year, the Armonk, N.Y.-based company hopes to help businesses quickly react to change and make better decisions. The company has committed to investing $10 billion to the project, which involves professional services and a host of technologies.

IBM will package its services with hardware and software as well as other services, such as outsourcing, Wladawsky-Berger said. The company will identify areas of customers' computing systems that could be doled out to another company to handle; customers can then decide whether to outsource to IBM's Global Services group or to other services providers, he said.

"More and more companies want to selectively run applications and business processes on a utility model," Wladawsky-Berger said. "You identify those that you are considering having someone else do because (they're) not your core focus."

Wladawsky-Berger said the on-demand technologies will focus on helping companies to integrate processes, to automate IT operations and to better use their resources by combining the capacity of multiple servers or storage devices, a process known as "virtualization."

For integration, IBM will offer a revamped version of its WebSphere Business Integrator product, which shares data among different business applications, to connect business processes, he said.

To improve the level of automation of computing systems, Wladawsky-Berger said the company will add more self-managing features to its Tivoli systems management product. These features came out of IBM's autonomic computing initiative, which is aimed at reducing the amount of manual labor needed to administer networks.

One example of virtualization is the company's grid computing offering, in which several computers share processing jobs. For example, financial services company Charles Schwab was able to avoid buying a new server by exploiting unused processing capability on its network, Wladawsky-Berger said.

IBM rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and