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IBM is after perhaps the smallest partners it has ever had, making a cheaper, “lighter” version of the open-source WebSphere Application Server Community Edition and DB2 Express-C, the no-license-fee database.

The offering is made to order for VARs and ISVs that can’t afford and never needed the robustness of the typical IBM gear, but that could benefit from building and deploying SMB, departmental or branch office solutions.

IBM partners can download the no-license-fee products and gain access to IBM marketing experts and sales specialists, create greater demand generation through free telemarketing and discounted advertising, and close deals remotely through IBM sales support. They’re also able to access “technical enablement” experts, using free online educational tools and Business Partner Innovation Centers to test and get product to market faster.

“This opens up access for a whole different set of developers and Systems Integrator partners around this space,” said Christopher Wong, IBM’s vice president of strategy and marketing, ISV & Developer Relations. “It wasn’t much a technical match with these partners before. The typical application provider writing lightweight, decentralized applications wasn’t looking at IBM before as a partner or infrastructure partner. Now this gives them the chance to join the IBM family and leverage co-marketing activities.”

More than 300 ISVs and Systems integrators have jumped aboard the program already and IBM is hoping the new offering will be a siren call to VARs and others that previously considered IBM out of reach, Wong said.

“This open up new avenues with IBM here,” he said. “It’s not just a great technical stack here, but the ability to leverage the IBM brand in way they couldn’t before.”

“I anticipate we will have more, smaller developers working with us than ever before,” he added. “The idea is to get them in, get them enabled and get them familiar.”