IBM offers Web hosting for SAP and WebSphere

IBM has expanded its Web hosting service to allow customers to run SAP applications, including SAP Enterprise Resource Planning...

IBM has expanded its Web hosting service to allow customers to run SAP applications, including SAP Enterprise Resource Planning and, over the Web.

The Application Hosting Services will also offer Siebel Systems and IBM's own WebSphere Commerce applications.

IBM has taken advantage of SAP's shift to a browser-based front end, according to Bob Berg, IBM's manager of new service offerings.

"We're offering what they do, plus a bit more. We offer support for all cross-industry and vertical-industry offerings, and have developed some vertical products of our own that have been certified by SAP. We are a strategic partner and already do a lot of work with SAP. It makes sense to combine our custom SAP hosting service with a more general hosting service," he said.

Support will be available from IBM's Application Operation Centres worldwide, based at the company's data centres in the US, France and Japan. "We have set up international centres of competency for the SAP offering and have the largest number of SAP-skilled people outside of SAP itself," he said.

The Siebel System offering includes Siebel 7 general and industry-specific applications for customers wanting to set up Web-enabled customer management platforms.

IBM's target customers for the new service have "already made the SAP or Siebel decision", and now want to upgrade without the expense of new hardware, software and training that would be needed, said Berg. "We can provide the infrastructure and skills through the transition and then they can decide whether to use a hosted application."

Berg said that hosting can be 30% cheaper than running in-house systems. "But that varies by customer. Even if it costs more, the customer may see the value of having their people concentrate on their own business instead of the migration to new software," he added.

The WebSphere hosting offers pre-designed platforms for WebSphere Application Server 4.0 or WebSphere Commerce Professional Edition 5.4, located at IBM's e-business hosting centres. It lets smaller companies set up e-commerce sites quickly and easily, and new monitoring reporting and server options are available, the company said.

WebSphere is particularly attractive to smaller and medium-sized companies, but can scale to work with any operation, Berg said.

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