April 18, 2008 10:05 ET

IBM Initiative Aims to Simplify IT for Small and Mid-Sized Clients

Delivers Enhanced Value to Partners and Customers in Sub-Industries and Local Areas Across the Globe

ARMONK, NY--(Marketwire - April 18, 2008) - IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced an expanded initiative focused on helping small and medium sized clients gain faster access to integrated business solutions that are easier to buy, implement and manage. The new program aims to expand IBM's market presence in the $50 billion systems and storage SMB marketplace.

IBM's Vertical Industry Program (VIP) addresses key IT requirements for SMBs -- the ability to quickly implement integrated business solutions that deliver a fast return on their investment. Core to the IBM VIP Program, IBM has identified sub-industry growth markets that represent a significant business opportunity for IBM systems and storage solutions. This includes local labor unions, wholesalers of specialty products and even tools manufacturers and auto dealerships. While clients in these industries recognize the value of IT they prefer to focus on their core business rather than challenges in integrating IT systems.

Originally launched as a test pilot partner ecosystem for selling AIX applications in 2006, VIP then became the cornerstone channel program for the IBM System i in 2007. Building on this success and increased market demand, IBM is announcing an expansion of the program to support a broader range of IBM hardware and software platforms including IBM Power Systems, BladeCenter and System Storage.

Now, with more than 750 specialized business partners delivering pre-integrated business solutions for more than 160 sub-industries, VIP is truly a global program, spanning 40 countries. Today, VIP supports an extensive array of applications for Partners and customers, and will grow even broader in the coming months.

As a result, IBM Business Partners can take advantage of co-marketing activities, sales support and stronger connections with other IBM Partners that specialize in the same industry. IBM Partners are able to team with other Partners within their local area and vertical sub-industry to gain the benefits of complementary solutions and locally based skills. Clients, therefore, are able to gain faster access to integrated business and IT solutions that are easy to implement, competitively priced, and optimized on IBM technology.

The requirements of mid-sized companies are unique. While they need to be as sophisticated as enterprise companies, they are limited by smaller IT staff and less IT integration capabilities. IBM helps meet the needs of these mid-sized clients by providing integrated solutions tailored for their industry and offered by local business partners. Today, over 75 percent of IBM Business Partners are partnering with other business partners to deliver integrated solutions.

"IBM is committed to delivering innovative products and IT delivery capabilities to mid-sized clients. We've done extensive research into this market segment, and as a result we are bringing incredible value and flexibility to IBM partners and customers," said Mark Shearer, Vice President of Marketing and Offerings for IBM Business Systems Division.

As a program that helps IBM Business Partners focus on specific customer needs within a vertical market, VIP promotes solutions that address an industry's unique requirements. As IBM continues to deliver focused industry solutions along with an IT investment that's protected over the long term, these networks of partners across ISVs, (Independent Software Vendors), SIs (Systems Integrators), resellers and consultants have become increasingly important. Across the globe, VIP partners are seeing success:

--  Australian Business Partner, SEMD Business Solutions, enhanced its
    business pipeline by more than 80% by integrating its Dealerpac software
    with IBM platforms and co-marketing into specialized industry segments like
    automotive and farm machinery sales and chemical distribution.  "Over the
    course of two decades, we haven't seen a single compelling reason to use
    any other platform than IBM Systems," said Stephen Gough, Managing Director
    of SEMD.  With the introduction of VIP, SEMD has grown its business across
    those sub-industries beyond expectations, and has helped to grow its
    customers' businesses, as well.  Harley City -- a Harley Davidson
    dealership in Melbourne, Australia -- has tripled its growth with SEMD and
    VIP while keeping administration costs to exactly the same level.  "Harley
    City has been able to maintain a competitive edge against the larger
    motorcycle chains in the local area.  Without VIP, and without reliable,
    simple, cost-effective systems to maintain, we would not have been able to
    keep that edge," said David Reidie, CEO of Harley City.
--  Sanmarco Informatica Spa is an Italian VIP partner that has achieved
    over 2,000 customer installations working with IBM, and is now growing
    globally.  The company's Galileo Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
    solutions are designed for the manufacturing, wine, food, building,
    fashion, furnishing, wood flooring and commercial sectors.  Through VIP,
    Sanmarco has implemented an improved marketing strategy and delivered to
    customers a simplified, centralized solution on IBM Systems.  "Last year,
    working with IBM and VIP, we doubled our business," said Michele Romano,
    Marketing Manager, Sanmarco Informatica.  "Our applications' high level of
    security combined with the industry-leading features of IBM Systems make an
    ideal solution for automating processes and services, especially in
    manufacturing companies with international operations."  Sanmarco customer,
    Zonin wine makers, runs 11 wine estates covering more than 3,700 acres in
    Northern Italy.  Francisco Zonin, Vice President of Zonin says, "Working
    with IBM and Sanmarco through VIP, we have been able to analyze the sale of
    every single bottle of wine to determine how best to optimize our sales and
    marketing strategy as we move forward.  This has given us a considerable
    advantage in the competitive wine market and has helped us run a successful
    business, from the vineyard to the glass."
--  Xperia Solutions is an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based enterprise
    apparel solutions provider and IBM VIP partner, offering solutions and
    services that help their customers plan and manage their production and
    sourcing operations, supply chain activities and customer service business
    practices.  Through VIP, Xperia has been able to offer integrated solutions
    that propel their customers' businesses forward.  "Xperia's apparel
    specific industry solutions focus and the integrated nature of VIP allow us
    to address key critical business challenges facing companies in today's
    apparel marketplace," said Gene Bonett, President and CEO of Xperia.  One
    of Xperia's customers, Modern Shoe Company, an importer and wholesaler of
    women's fashion footwear, has enjoyed a phenomenal growth curve since its
    inception in early 2006.  Without adding a single employee to their cast of
    nine, Modern Shoe's business has increased over 250 percent in the past
    year to become a $50M+ business.  "With IBM Systems and services from
    Xperia, we've been able to streamline our business processes and utilize
    applications designed specifically for the apparel industry," said Roger
    Monks, COO of Modern Shoe.  "We've grown our business to unprecedented
    levels and the combination of Xperia and IBM provides us with a stable
    platform to support and continue this growth in the coming months and

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