IBM's Alliance Lite, open SANs, and corporate IT myths

In this week's look back at three key developments, Robin Bloor and his team assess Big Blue's latest partner push, Sun's non-proprietary storage area network announcement, and how to make sure IT is paying its way...
Written by Bloor Research, Contributor

In this week's look back at three key developments, Robin Bloor and his team assess Big Blue's latest partner push, Sun's non-proprietary storage area network announcement, and how to make sure IT is paying its way...

Last week IBM announced it is setting up a new software partner programme for independent software vendors (ISVs). The programme, called Alliance Lite, aims to promote the integration of applications with IBM servers and mainframe platforms. The company hopes to sign up at least 50 partners with each deal generating at least $10m in revenue. The first partnership has already been agreed. Xchange Applications produces front office applications targeted at improving management of customer relationships. Within the agreement Xchange will promote IBM hardware and middleware to their customer base while IBM, in return, will promote Xchange's marketing and campaign software running on their hardware. Furthermore, Xchange will integrate their applications with IBM's DB2 database package and market IBM's ecommerce solutions. IBM remains the world's largest hardware vendor and Alliance Lite is part of an initiative to retain that position by keeping customers loyal and reducing the risk of them migrating to Sun- or Intel-based hardware platforms where ecommerce solutions are readily available. The company already has a strategic global alliance programme which incorporates deals with over 50 of the world's largest software vendors including the likes of i2, PeopleSoft, Siebel and Vignette. These deals involve multi-million dollar global commitments and the scale of the deals in these alliances reflects the size of the ISVs. With Siebel alone, IBM has generated over $100m in revenues. The Alliance Lite programme differentiates itself by providing a narrower platform for smaller ISVs but one that can be established quickly. The Siebel deal has recently been strengthened with the incorporation of IBM's Content Manager into the Siebel Call Centre application. These moves will considerably strengthen IBM's already impressive presence as a global service provider. The global alliances with the likes of Siebel have already borne fruit and the announcement of the new Content Manager only serves to demonstrate the level of commitment from both companies to the alliance. The Alliance Lite programme shows IBM is also keen to keep its fingers in all pies while recognising that a different approach is needed. Underpinning both programmes is IBM's hardware and software infrastructure covering messaging software and database solutions. The approach taken demonstrates that, unlike some vendors, IBM is not trying to become a jack of all trades but instead remain a master of those it has an established presence in. For others, it will partner with masters, both big and small. *Prefab SAN* One of the biggest problems for organisations looking to create a storage area network (SAN) has been the need to integrate devices from multiple suppliers into a common environment. Now Sun has come up with the idea of a pre-fabricated SAN that should address the integration issue. Of course, the concept of a ready-to-run SAN is not a new one but, so far, most of the solutions on offer have come from the specialist suppliers of storage devices. Naturally, in such cases, there is not much choice of equipment available. Sun's approach is an open one that should allow SAN technology to be acquired more quickly and cheaply. The new Sun Storage Area Network Solution is based upon its StorEdge technology and features the ability to add a Jiro layer over the top of the physical devices that addresses the individual interface differences between them. It offers a common virtual layer for accessibility. This appears to be a good attempt to overcome some of the barriers to the introduction of SAN technology. So far, only a few large companies have implemented small-scale solutions. Yet, a SAN's value is in large-scale implementations where high availability and performance can be managed. The Sun deal will provide the opportunity for a SAN solution to be put together cheaply and without too much fear of failure caused by incompatible devices. There is, of course, the complete reliance on Jiro technology to make the whole thing work. While this technology has obvious benefits of openness, all of the usual questions that came with the early Java concepts are hanging around. These are questions of resource requirements, scalability and so on, and the answers usually depend on the individual implementation. Organisations that are tied into a proprietary storage supplier won't be very interested in what Sun has to say here. However, for those of us that like to choose different types of storage for different jobs, this is a space that will be worth watching. *Corporate mythology, IT-style* Even those corporates with modest ambitions will respond to any enquiry about the well-being of their organisation in positive tones. For many that is what they truly believe. After all, that is exactly what their staff are telling them and the concept of mushroom management, keeping them in the dark and feeding them sh*t, is not contemplated. But before you settle into complacency, just take some time to ask a few simple questions. First, what about your IT assets? What have you got, how many have you got, where are they and who has them? There are a multitude of devices used in the corporation today: desktop PCs, laptops, PDAs, mobile phones, servers, network equipment, printers, scanners and digital cameras to name but a few. All of these mean some degree of financial expenditure on the promise of a return on investment. Next, whatever happened to corporate data modelling? Have you seen the results of your not insubstantial investment in modelling tools and consultants to map out the data within your company? With today's increased reliance on data to feed applications such as customer relationship management and data mining that data model would be really useful wouldn't it? Then think about your applications. Admittedly, they've all got a bit more complicated with this web stuff but you've managed to strap your website on to your transaction systems which in turn go into your ERP system, which goes into your data warehouse. All the business logic has been documented to the right level of detail - sitting on top of your corporate data model of course - and it has all been kept up to date. Right? IT isn't cheap. You're always looking for the return on investment and until you know just how much your IT is costing you'll never find it, so sort out your assets. The corporate data models must be one of the greatest myths in IT. Now it's crunch time and you've got to know your data to take advantage of new business and technical opportunities.
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