Businesses prefer to spread the payment for services over a period of time through regular monthly payments. Many UK enterprises would prefer to pay for software in the same way, although at present, most do not. Once paying for software on a monthly basis, in financial terms at least, it is then a small step to switch this from the on-premise deployment of software to using a managed service delivered over the internet.
Indeed, in 10 years time, almost half of enterprises expect software to be delivered as an on-demand service (most of the other half simply do not know what they will be doing that far ahead) although in reality there is a long way to go before this can be considered common place. In the mid-market things look rather different.
Mid-market companies already make fairly extensive use of managed services. Most commonly this is for the management of email and web-sites but there is increasing interest in putting other services, including backup and security, off-site.
IBM feels it has relied too long on supplying IT mainly to enterprises and would like to increase its presence in the mid-market. It faces a big challenge; on the software side, the mid-market is dominated by Microsoft and on the hardware side by Dell and Hewlett-Packard. But IBM hopes to steal a lead on its rivals by pitching a new range of what it calls IBM Express Managed Services (IEMS) at the mid-market. They are only to be sold via IBM’s channel business partners.
The first, Email Security, was actually launched six months ago. There is nothing new about it; similar services are already available from companies such as Postini and Black-Spider, and Microsoft has also recently entered this market through the acquisition of Frontbridge. In fact, IBM is simply reselling the service from another supplier – MessageLabs.
This month IBM has announced that it will launch three more IEMS. The first, Email Recovery Services, is a stablemate to Email Security. Again there is nothing unique about this; Microsoft/Frontbridge already offers this, Postini has announced plans to do so and there are specialist vendors such as Mimecast. However, when viewed along side a third offering – On Line Backup and Recovery – IBM’s capability starts to look more comprehensive than the others.
On Line Backup and Recovery does what it says on the box. This should prove an attractive proposition for mid-sized businesses, because it kills two birds with one stone. Firstly, data backup is automated and performed regularly, and secondly, it goes straight off site – an essential step for data protection that many organisations fail to take.
Again, IBM is not the first vendor to offer such a service, there are many others such as Netstore, Datafort and Iron Mountain. But if IBM can persuade businesses to switch to a managed service for this most fundamental of requirements, it has opened the door for its other Express offerings.
The third IEMS announced this month is called radio frequency identification (RFID) Solution for Mid-Market, allowing small suppliers to more easily meet the demands on their large customers to interface to supply chain management systems based on RFID-ing of goods. IBM has more IEMS in the pipeline.
For IBM to become a leader in the mid-market it will need the support of the channel. Resellers working in the mid-market need to respond to its growing requirements for managed services. They have two choices – they can develop their own or resell those provided by IT vendors. As IBM continues to expand its portfolio, resellers may find it an increasingly convenient one stop shop.
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