This week, thousands of software vendors and solutions providers will meet in Las Vegas at PartnerWorld, IBM's annual conference for its Business Partners. In what has become a PartnerWorld tradition, IBM will launch several initiatives to reach more medium-sized businesses through its Partners. Among those initiatives, one that will be a hot topic of discussion is the iSeries Initiative for Innovation. The initiative, which IBM quietly previewed with its Business Partners last Thursday, could significantly increase the attention that software vendors and solution providers pay to the iSeries during 2005.
The iSeries Initiative for Innovation is a family of programs designed to expand the number of Business Partners who create On Demand applications and development tools for the iSeries. The applications and tools may be existing iSeries products that Business Partners modernize or new solutions that run on any of the operating systems that the server supports. At present, IBM works closely with several hundred iSeries applications and tool vendors. Through the iSeries Initiative for Innovation, the company wants to increase that number to more than 2,500 Business Partners. Under the initiative, these Partners will engage with IBM through the following programs:
- Application Innovation Program--Under this program, IBM will provide more software vendors with no-charge services to enable their solutions for the iSeries. The services will include access to IBM-hosted servers for development and testing, education and support services, and conversion programs. To deliver the expanded assistance, IBM will provide additional iSeries experts and development resources in six of its Innovation Centers. The centers slated for expansion are in the United States, Australia, China, France, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
- Tools Innovation Program--IBM will also devote more resources to tool vendors who enrich the iSeries' development environment. Besides assisting more vendors through its Innovation Centers, IBM will also list many of the vendors' tools within its iSeries Developers Roadmap. This puts third-party tools on more of an equal footing with IBM's own development products. It also acknowledges the critical role that such tools play in meeting needs that IBM's WebSphere development environment does not address.
- iSeries Innovation Program--IBM is also pledging to increase collaboration with software vendors and tool providers. As part of this pledge, Big Blue will provide increased access to technical experts in Rochester who can assist on application integration efforts, benchmarks, and other development projects. The company will also form new advisory councils to coordinate with Partners on industry solutions and the evolution of the iSeries' development and runtime environments.
- Comarketing opportunities--As part of the new initiative, IBM will expand iSeries marketing on several fronts. The company will run more prime-time TV commercials, radio spots, and newspaper ads, including a four-page spread that is appearing in the Wall Street Journal today. In addition, the company will provide more comarketing dollars to iSeries Business Partners for their own advertisements. Much of the comarketing money will be distributed through PartnerWorld Industry Networks, an IBM program for software vendors and solution providers that includes comarketing support.
One important piece of thinking that underlies the iSeries Innovation Initiative is a significantly revised version of the iSeries Developers Roadmap. While this would normally be the perfect place to insert a diagram of the new version, I do not have a copy that is ready for the Web. Suffice it to say for now that the new version moves the Roadmap forward in several important ways. It includes open technologies that both IBM and non-IBM development platforms use, including XML, JavaServer Pages (JSP), and Web Services. At the same time, it acknowledges the strategic role that ILE RPG and the other ILE languages play in modernized iSeries applications. For the first time, the Roadmap also includes space for the modernization tools of IBM's Business Partners. Finally, the new version shifts the goal of the Roadmap away from application portability and toward application integration and business process integration. This aligns the iSeries Developers Roadmap with IBM's goal of helping its customers become integrated, agile, On Demand businesses.
While many elements of the iSeries Innovation Initiative are still just promises on paper, the promises demonstrate that IBM is serious about reengaging with the iSeries community. If the company delivers on the commitments it has made, it will significantly boost the financial, technical, and marketing assistance it provides to hundreds of iSeries Business Partners. That would translate into a significant increase in the kinds of modernized solutions that will help the iSeries gain market momentum. And that is precisely what Mark Shearer, the new iSeries General Manager, wants to achieve. Indeed, Shearer told the iSeries Business Partners last Thursday that he wants to reestablish a "culture of growth" in which hundreds of additional Partners join with IBM to go to market on the iSeries.
While I could say much more about the iSeries Innovation Initiative, I will have to do so in another issue because I am packing my bags for Las Vegas so that I can study IBM's latest Partner programs and products up close. If I'm not kidnapped by Elvis impersonators, I'll be back next week with a report on what I learned.