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IBM on Wednesday launched four new offerings designed to assist midsized companies with the integration of business processes and people. The new offerings are the latest addition to IBM’s growing Express Portfolio of offerings designed specifically for midsize businesses.

The new integration offerings include IBM WebSphere Business Integration Server Express, a core component in IBM’s business process integration strategy for small and midsized businesses (SMBs).

This builds on three in-market offerings—WebSphere Business Integration Express for Item Synchronization, WebSphere Business Integration Connect Express and WebSphere MQ Express—to provide a complete business process integration platform.

This new middleware approach is designed to make it easier for customers to integrate, end-to-end, their existing IT systems, business processes and applications. IBM also announced three new industry-specific Express solutions for midsize companies in the electronics, life sciences and manufacturing industries. All of these offerings are designed to be reseller-friendly, according to Scott Cosby, IBM’s program director for WebSphere Integration.

“This new line is designed for the midmarket, which IBM defines as customers with between 99 and 1,000 employees,” Cosby said. “For these customers, integration can be a very real problem. What we sell will allow our partners to use their technology and customer expertise to deliver the goods for their customers.”

Specifically, Cosby said there are three ways a partner can provide expertise to the customer. First, there are prebuild templates. These include the 80 percent of generic business information that all businesses use. After all, businesses have about 80 percent of the same business processes. This lets you get a head start on the basics, and you can then customize the remaining 20 percent.

“For example, if you specialize in the automobile vertical channel, you can capture your expertise in an application build on top of that template and then deliver it to your customer,” Cosby said.

Process dashboards provide another option, Cosby said. “These are Web-based viewers that enable you or your customer to keep an eye on an ongoing business processes.

“For example, you can use Server Express to create a custom application for a purchase manager that can integrate with their invoice and warehouse applications. So, for example, they could then see in real time that the red widgets are selling better than expected in Seattle, so more of them need to be ordered for the Seattle warehouses.”

Cosby also wanted to make clear that users can do more with the Express Portfolio than just integrating existing business processes. “You can use it as an application developer to deliver your own applications,” he said. “For example, it has backend drivers like MSQL, COM, JDBC and XML to connect in to back-end applications like those from J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft.

“With this, you create applications for a niche market or with a specific product,” Cosby said. “For example, they can use it to build an adaptor to use a particular API. If you did QuickBooks deployments, you can create a QuickBooks adaptor to build a QuickBooks application.

“The point of all this is so that you can go to a customer and give them solutions that tie together a customer’s existing IT environment, including resident customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, Web-enabled product catalogs, e-commerce sites and employee portals.

“By avoiding the ‘rip and replace’ approach, your midsize customers can leverage their existing IT investments while reducing total cost of ownership and time-to-value for both current and future integration projects,” Cosby said.

“WebSphere Business Integration Server Express provides almost immediate back-end integration, right out of the box,” said Brian Hall, practice leader for business integration and workflow at Gemini Systems Inc., a regional New York City systems integrator.

“The WebSphere Business Integration Express toolbox enables faster implementation of standard processes without disrupting the current customer environment. In addition, we have the flexibility to use the array of adapters provided, or create our own, to exactly meet customer requirements,” Hall said.

The product runs on Windows, Linux and OS/400. It also includes DB2 Express, but this is to provide the data store for other applications; it is not licensed for end-user use.

WebSphere Business Integration Server Express is built on open standards and is available across multiple platforms. The new middleware starts at $5,999 per processor in the United States and will be available May 14.

Cosby said business partners are critical to IBM’s success in the middle market. “We will provide education, marketing and co-marketing for both our existing and new midmarket partners,” he said. “Our customers are telling IBM that they want more midmarket partners, and we want to make more midmarket partners.”