Ariba Blankets The Market

Just days after uncorking procurement offerings for small businesses and application service providers (ASPs), Ariba is quickly inking several new channel partners.The hubbub began at last week's Ariba show in San Francisco, where the company outlined plans and unveiled products to tap the budding procurement market for small to midsize businesses.

Just days after uncorking procurement offerings for small businesses and application service providers (ASPs), Ariba is quickly inking several new channel partners.

The hubbub began at last week's Ariba show in San Francisco, where the company outlined plans and unveiled products to tap the budding procurement market for small to midsize businesses. In the past, Ariba had targeted only Fortune 500 companies with its multimillion-dollar e-commerce app, dubbed ORMS.

"Everybody wants to partner with Ariba right now. ... They're kind of like BroadVision. They've got more requests than they can handle," says Bob Arnett, an exec with Premier Systems Integrators, a reseller that was looking to hammer out a partnership with Ariba at last week's show.

Ariba CEO Keith Krach says his company is creating an "e-commerce ecosystem of blue-chip clients." To wit, a source close to Ariba says the company has tentatively signed on four ASP partners to host and rent its new app, ORMX, optimized for the outsourced marketplace. Essentially, ORMX is ORMS, but with specific templates and business rules for the ASP marketplace. A company spokesman declined to comment about the rumored deals.

Meanwhile, companies like Premier Systems Integrators are taking a hard look at Ariba's CASI (Certified Ariba Systems Integrator) program, which currently includes about eight upper-echelon services companies. But, like any top-tier partner program, it requires substantial training and a strong relationship between channel partner and vendor.

"It's all about building the relationship [with Ariba] right now," says Premier's Arnett. "We're going to try to close a few deals with them first, and then take it from there."

Ariba's move downstream has been anticipated for quite some time. In fact, many wondered just how long Ariba would leave the lucrative midmarket to start-up vendors like RightWorks or portals like Works.com.

Even competitor Commerce One has launched efforts in both the ASP and purchasing portal arenas. "Unless you've got multimillion dollars for ERP-like solutions from Commerce One or Ariba, there's really no other way to go other than the hosted-app, ASP model," says Chuck Shih, director of Commerce One's MarketSite.net business-to-business portal.

Sounds like a no-brainer. But some supplier partners worry that Ariba may be tackling too much. Says an executive at one recently announced Ariba supplier, "I'm just worried they're spreading themselves too thin."

Ariba begs to differ. "Just think of it as several different on-ramps to the same technology," says a company spokesman.

So far, the channel agrees.

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