IBM begets more little blue clouds


Another day, another couple IBM clouds. Today, the computing giant bolstered its seven-month-old Smarter Commerce initiative with new cloud business offerings incorporating technologies from Unica, Coremetrics and Sterling Commerce. IBM acquired these three companies last year for a total sum of about $2.5 billion.

The result is new IBM-branded “Commerce-as-a-Service” and social media marketing cloud services that meld Sterling’s supply chain know-how, Coremetrics web analytics and Unica’s marketing management technology with IBM’s middleware underpinnings.

Previous to the IBM acquisition, the Coremetrics offerings were all cloud based, while the Unica and Sterling technologies were partially there. IBM took those technologies and best practices, tied them into its backend systems and optimized it all to run especially well on IBM Power7 hardware, said Craig Hayman, GM of IBM’s industry solutions effort.

What is net new to IBM’s cloud ecosystem is supply management, logistics management and payments technologies as well as social media tracking and Sterling’s cross-channel sales and customer integration technologies, Hayman said.

A big part of this push addresses the pressure many businesses feel to use social media not only to promote their products and services but to monitor and track customer reaction to them, according to analyst Laurie McCabe, co-founder of the SMB Group.

IBM built out its software services portfolio for years to attack what it sees as a $20 billion market.

In some cases, it’s playing catch up with innovative first movers like Hubspot, which helps companies build in-bound marketing plans that incorporate relevant Facebook and Twitter chatter as part of an overall marketing strategy.  The Unica acquisition helped fill that gap.

Clearly, IBM would bristle at the notion that it’s playing catchup. “We launched the Smarter Commerce initiative in March and [seven] months later we’ve done a lot. We are on a tear,” Hayman said.

The new Commerce-as-a Service entry offers cloud-based configuration, pricing and quoting capabilities to streamline a business’s “quote-to-cash” process that is now often ad hoc or bolted into existing ERP and supply chain management systems.  IBM is trying to take that sales tracking process into the Software-as-a-Service realm.

IBM and software rivals Oracle and SAP are all navigating the tricky straits between on-premises and cloud-based software world and like most of these competitors, IBM is hedging its bets. The bulk of today’s offerings will also be available for on-premises deployment.

Image courtesy of The Library of Congress.

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