During the last several years, IBM has both expanded and fine-tuned its Express line of offerings, often working with Business Partners to pre-test and pre-integrate components to simplify installation and deployment for SMBs.
A Word About Express
IBM Express products, which target small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), must meet certain criteria in order to be branded "Express." For example, the products must be easy to install, usually in a prescribed number of steps, and be operational in a short (also prescribed) time frame. In some cases, the products must be turnkey or out-of-the-box operational. IBM Express products are not "light" versions of the larger enterprise solutions. Instead, Express products are designed to leverage robust technology in a less complex, expensive, and time-consuming manner.
Tivoli for the SMB, a Concept Whose Time Has Come
Long considered a systems management solution for large enterprises, IBM recently announced Tivoli Express, a series of systems management tools designed for SMBs, which often have limited if not scare resources. Based on customer input and collaboration with approximately 45 Business Partners, IBM has honed and simplified the Tivoli Express software. The company also claims to have "intensively" beta tested the software so that SMB companies can take advantage of technology that has been, up to now, the exclusive domain of larger enterprises.
Tivoli Express consists of offerings that are designed to enable SMB customers to manage server workloads, monitor applications, protect data, and verify passwords.
According to IBM, the new Tivoli Express software includes IBM Tivoli Identity Manager Express, which is already available; IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Express, which will be available on March 17; IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager Express, which will be available on March 31; and IBM Tivoli Monitoring Express, which will be available on April 7, 2006.
With this announcement, IBM appears to have addressed virtually every facet, including the customer, the Business Partner, the technology, and even sales and marketing. IBM is enabling Business Partners to sell its Tivoli Express line of products by offering programs, incentives, and other materials.
On the surface, this is good news to SMB customers, but the proof is in the pudding. By beta testing these products and enlisting SMB customer input, IBM has stacked the deck in its favor. The company's goal of a 20% increase in sales revenue, while modest for IBM, can be realized if IBM continues to listen to its SMB customers, collaborate with its Business Partners, and provide the required and ongoing support to both. It is also incumbent on IT decision-makers to continue to provide feedback and make their voices heard. This ongoing and dynamic collaboration can make Tivoli Express software desirable and competitive in the market and can help IBM retain existing customers as well as attract new customers.
Not Just SAN in a Can
IBM recently announced that it is continuing to expand its product offerings for SMBs. This announcement further underscores IBM's efforts to deliver enterprise-level capabilities to SMB customers.
IBM has added a new 4-Gbps-capable expansion unit, the IBM System Storage DS4000 EXP810, to provide "increased density and capacity." In addition, the company has provided "[a]utomated backup and restore processes developed exclusively for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Simple SAN designation for the IBM System Storage DS4100 and DS4300."
The EXP810 "offers a 16-bay disk enclosure for attachment to selected DS4000 Midrange Disk Systems, with up to 4.8 terabytes (TB) physical capacity per expansion unit on initial introduction." IBM reports that this is more than double the capacity of the existing EXP710 expansion unit. The new unit is also designed to accommodate the existing 2-Gbps fibre channel disk drives, as well as future 4-Gbps fibre channel disk drives.
The EXP810 has all the earmarks of a solution aimed at SMBs, including greater scalability and easy installation. For larger enterprises, the EXP810 appears to provide the opportunity for a lower "total cost of acquisition" by reducing the need to acquire additional expansion points, IBM said.
Improved disaster recovery and business continuity are also key features of this announcement, helping businesses achieve compliance regarding email and other data storage.
IBM appears to have acknowledged that many companies operate their email platforms on Microsoft Exchange Server. To that end, IBM is working with Microsoft to offer compatible solutions. While Microsoft has introduced a Volume Shadow Copy Service to help eliminate email backup windows, IBM has developed an automated business solution called DS4000 Integrated Backup for Databases (IBD) for Exchange, which is designed to protect and enable recovery of Microsoft Exchange 2003 databases.
IBM has added VolumeCopy and a combination of FlashCopy/VolumeCopy to the IBM TotalStorage DS4100 to affordably address storage consolidation, IBM reports.
Moreover, IBM has attained Microsoft Simple SAN designation for its DS4100 and DS4300. SAN Kits are designed to provide an out-of-the-box SAN experience for customers and enable SMB companies to install a SAN expeditiously and without onsite assistance.
IBM reports that the System Storage DS4000 EXP810 will be available on April 28, starting at a list price of $6,000. Disaster recovery and business continuity (DRBC) features—including IBM Integrated Backup for Databases (IBD) for Exchange, VolumeCopy, and a combination of FlashCopy/VolumeCopy—will be available on March 17, with list prices starting at $4,800 for entry-level storage servers. IBM DS4100 and DS4300 SAN Kits for the IBM DS4000 storage systems are available now, starting at a list price of just over $6,500.
Customers are continuing to be constrained by shrinking and/or highly scrutinized IT budgets. At the same time, they must be compliant regarding information storage and redundancy. The collaborative efforts between IBM and Microsoft appear to have yielded storage and DRBC solutions to help customers effectively and efficiently deal with issues of both storage and cost. IT decision-makers must, however, remain vigilant in this area. Before purchasing any solution, it is imperative that they have a grasp of their storage topology, DRBC plans, and current spend. In implementing new solutions, it is also wise to perform a five-year total cost of ownership to determine if savings in time and cost can be realized.
Move Over Tasmanian Devil, Here Comes Project Higgins
In a boon to the open source movement, IBM, Novell, and Parity Communications recently announced they are contributing code to an open source initiative. "Project Higgins," named after the Tasmanian long-tailed Higgins mouse, is designed to enable individuals to have more control over their personal online identity information, IBM reported.
Project Higgins expands upon a concept developed by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society and is being managed by the Eclipse open source foundation. The idea is to empower individuals to dynamically and securely manage their online personal information—such as bank accounts, telephone and credit card numbers, and medical and other records—and control what elements of their information may be seen by whom. In addition, Project Higgins should enable individuals to change a password or address across all their online accounts. The announcement indicates that since Higgins is an open source effort, it "will support computers running Linux, Windows or any operating system, and will support any identity management system."
IBM plans to incorporate Higgins technology within its Tivoli identity management software, the company said.
It's All Good News for Business Partners and SMBs
At the time of this publication, PartnerWorld will be in full swing. These IBM announcements address themes aimed at collaborating with Business Partners and making it easier and more attractive for them to sell IBM products and services. Another theme explored in the aforementioned announcements is the leveraging of robust technology solutions for the way SMBs do business. Moreover, Project Higgins provides a glimpse into the future of more efficient and secure individual management of online information. Watch this space; there will be more to come at PartnerWorld 2006.