IBM expands SaaS ecosystem

By Tom Sullivan, InfoWorld |  On-demand Software, IBM

IBM on Friday detailed a new ISV partnership, a move which, on the heels of cloud-related agreements penned last week with several universities, advances the company's cloud and SaaS realm.

"The grand vision is about helping these partners to enable solutions to be delivered in an SaaS model," explained Dave Mitchell, IBM's director of strategy and emerging business for ISVs and developer relations. "We're looking to build out our ecosystem by providing partners more ways to work with us."

[SaaS and cloud-based services are all the rage, but what if your cloud turns stormy? For the definitive primer, read InfoWorld's What cloud computing really means.]

To that end, Big Blue on Friday announced an agreement with iEnterprises that enables the latter to offer its CRM software SaaS-style to customers in the construction, pharmaceutical, legal, and other vertical industries, the companies say.

Mitchell said it is the latest in a growing number of partners that IBM has recruited. "We added more partners to our SaaS program last year than we had in the previous three years."

Last week, IBM outlined partnerships with six universities around the world to enhance projects and research initiatives by tapping into cloud infrastructure provided by IBM.

Dr. Willy Chiu, vice president of IBM's Cloud Labs, explained that these are paying customers. One such customer, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, will open its cloud infrastructure to local businesses.

Although the announcements are vertical niche- and university-centric, Chiu said that commercial companies large and small face similar challenges -- namely the need to do more with fewer resources such as virtualization, SaaS, and cloud services.

"Academic institutions do tend to be hard up for money and resources so they have that in common, for sure," said Gary Barnett, an analyst with the Bathwick Group. "Generally, the more people playing around with cloud and SaaS, the more quickly it will develop and mature."

Indeed, Evans Data last week issued the results of two distinct surveys concluding that nearly half of developers intend to create SaaS applications in 2009 and that almost half of developers working on open source applications plan to provide them via the cloud model.

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