IBM is improving the scalability of its mainframe transaction systems and is developing interfaces that will enable systems to be used in online environments, such as Second Life.
Speaking at the company's UK research lab in Hursley last week, Steve Mills, who heads up IBM's £9bn software business, said, "Developing processing systems will remain the core of our software business. Banks, shipping companies and governments use our software to process over 10 billion transactions a year, and our clients are looking to increase the scale of their IT infrastructures to cope."
Although IBM will continue to invest in traditional mainframe transaction systems, Mills said the firm was looking at new approaches.
"IBM aims to invest the majority of its research and development dollar into building software that can link traditional transaction systems to modern interfaces, for example, releasing automatic teller machines that link to banks in virtual worlds such as Second Life," he said.
IBM's Smart Bank application, which is currently being tested at Hursley, simulates a banking environment running at high volume. The virtual ATM is linked to a real payments system using web services to provide authorisation from a core banking system in real-time.
Along with the research and development effort, IBM has been expanding its software family. Its planned purchase of Princeton Softech, announced at the beginning of August, will give users the ability to identify and store historical data on cheaper storage, while keeping current data on storage networks that demand greater resilience.
In July, IBM purchased Data Mirror for £80m. This software allows modified data to be identified and delivered in real-time processes, allowing auditing changes to be made in a database, for example.
And in June, IBM bought Telelogic for £392m to improve its services arm, which helps users develop industry-specific software.
"By following its acquisition strategy, IBM will boost its position in the transaction processing market and fill gaps elsewhere in its software management offerings," said Jim Duggan, research vice-president at analyst firm Gartner.