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Looking to bring the benefits of Web 2.0 and social networking to the commercial side, IBM is rolling out its own entry, Lotus Connections.

The Armonk, N.Y., company announced the program and other social networking initiatives for its partners at its Partner World Summit in St. Louis April 30.

Described by IBM as embodying the concepts of social networking with a business wrapper around them, the environment offers five services—personal pages for biographical information, communities, blogs, “DogEar” or a social bookmarking function, and a project plan area.

“Lotus Connections is the first ready-for-business social software,” said Timothy Kounadis, director of worldwide channels and SMB for IBM. The technology will initially be offered to partners free of charge and is accessible through a Web browser.

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In the June to August time frame IBM will ship Lotus Connections as a product that channel partners can package together with services to sell to customers. Kounadis said IBM will disclose pricing when the product ships.

IBM has also created a Valuenet Connections section of its broader Valuenet partner site—a new area that makes it easier for channel partners to find other partners for collaborative deals and projects. Once partners find each other through the new service, they can collaborate using Lotus Connections, Kounadis said.

On the developer side, IBM is announcing DeveloperWorks Community Spaces, billed as a technical resource for developers. The new community area will be organized into topical areas led by experts as community moderators. The topical areas will include technical articles, tutorials and code samples, said Kathy Mandelstein, director of worldwide developer programs at IBM.

“We are rolling out 12 of these topics right now,” Mandelstein said. “And we are also inviting developers to sign up as experts.” Initial communities cover topics including SAAS (software as a service), AJAX and PHP.

IBM recruited initial topic area leaders/moderators from within the company’s own lab ranks and also from the developer community, according to Mandelstein.

“This is a way to allow developers to work in like-minded groups,” Mandelstein said.