IBM targets grid computing with latest SMB software

IBM Corp.'s latest round of software aimed at SMBs (small and midsize businesses) includes a bundle of hardware, software and services designed to encourage users to adopt grid computing.

Released Tuesday, Grid and Grow Express is based on IBM's eServer BladeCenter blade server, according to Judy Smolski, vice president of SMB marketing for IBM Americas. The offering comes with seven blades and users can choose which processor, operating system and scheduler are in the bundle.

IBM estimates that SMB business accounts for about 20 percent of its revenue. The vendor typically defines SMBs as companies with between 100 and 1,000 workers.

Tuesday's news is the latest in a steady stream of announcements from the company designed to make it more attractive for SMBs to do business with IBM, Smolski said. She pointed to the company's Express Advantage initiative, unveiled at IBM's PartnerWorld conference in March, which brings together IBM's SMB Express offerings with resources including financing options from IBM Global Services. SMBs looking to try out grid computing can have IBM finance that, she added.

Grid and Grow Express costs from US$1,369 per month for a 36-month term. It's available Tuesday in the U.S. and Canada and 12 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including France, Germany, Israel and the U.K.

Sanjeev Aggarwal, senior analyst for Yankee Group's SMB strategies decision service, described the pricing as "very aggressive" and likely to appeal to SMBs weighing the cost of buying additional PCs versus moving to share high-performance computing resources via grid technology. "There's definitely an interest [in grid] among midmarket verticals including education and pharmaceuticals," he said.

IBM first introduced the Grid and Grow bundle in a version providing midsize and large companies with a grid technology starter pack at the LinuxWorld show in San Francisco in August. That bundle had a starting price of $49,000.

Coming soon is IBM's Express Desktop Management Services, a Web-based suite of desktop and laptop asset management services. The suite costs from $5 per seat per month, with a minimum of 20 seats. It will be available in the U.S. and Canada in May, then in the Netherlands and Germany in June, Smolski said.

Shipping in June, Tivoli Directory Integrator Express helps users securely share identity data from trusted sources across their applications. The software costs from $16 per user identity and will be available worldwide except for Japan.

The company's next round of Express announcements should come in the third or fourth quarter, according to Smolski, and will likely include some product updates given that IBM begun introducing its SMB software three years ago.

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